HOUSTON -- A disabled Vietnam Veteran from Conroe will get to pay a final tribute to a fallen comrade thanks to an outpouring of support from people helping him make the trip of a lifetime.
Donald Morgan spent just one year in Vietnam as a Navy Seawolf, a helicopter mechanic and door gunner for a special ops unit that provided protection from the air for Navy Seals. But his year at war, followed by the treatment he and other Vietnam Veterans received when they returned home, impacted his entire life.
"I have nightmares,” Morgan said from his home in the southeast corner of Conroe. Morgan, 62, is disabled and diagnosed with PTSD.
"It definitely started in Nam but our treatment when we came back didn't do anything but magnify it. But the way we were treated when we came home, we were the bastard children of the world.”
But in the 40-plus years that followed he stayed proud of his time as a Navy helicopter mechanic and always honored the comrades he lost at war. He applied to be part of next month’s 30th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC.
He filed the application to be one of thousands to help read out loud the wall’s 58,282 names. But when he got the email from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund he dropped it. Because among the 15 names he’d been assigned to read was the name of Michael E. Shafernocker, a fellow Seawolf killed in action in 1969.
“My hands started shaking,” he said. "You get goose bumps that don't go away. Every time you think about it, every time somebody says something about it, I get goose bumps."
"And then getting to read Michael's name in DC at the wall is just beyond me. I'm honored,” he said.
The disabled vet got goose bumps again after he told a few friends he didn't have the money to go to Washington, DC. He and his wife live on disability and Social Security payments. He’s never been to the Vietnam Wall before. One of his friends created a Facebook page asking for donations. The donations trickled in a few dollars at a time from old friends, old classmates, and old buddies from the war. Then Southwest Airlines got wind of his dilemma and donated a free round-trip ticket.
"I swell with pride every time I think about it. The outpouring of love and friendship and encouragement by these people, I'm blown away by it," he said.
He said it also restored a bit of the faith he lost when he and other vets were treated like dirt when they came home from war.
“It just makes my day. I mean it absolutely makes my day to be welcomed home even 40 years, 45 years after. I do know that come hell or high water I'm going. It's probably one of the greatest honors that has been bestowed on me as a veteran. And I'm stoked."
Morgan is scheduled to take part in the reading of the names at the Vietnam Wall on Nov. 10 at 6 a.m. His Facebook page is listed below if you would like to help him cover the final expenses for the four-day trip to Washington, DC.