Donald P. Mason
Donald P. Mason was the son of parents who early on worked the fruit harvests, which moved him around quite a bit as a child, through parts of Arkansas including Mount Pleasant, Batesville, and Sulfur Rock.
He admits with a smile that he and his four brothers were a little mischievous in their high school years. He was drafted and sent to Vietnam on October 21, 1969. After basic training and just a few days 'in country' he was severely wounded in the head by shrapnel. Miraculously he survived, but not without a great deal of suffering and life long adaptation to the aftermath of his head wound. He had no memory of the events of December 12th, but after finally being discharged from Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado he slowly tried to integrate back into life.
He was blessed to meet his wife Donna, saying it "was love at first sight"and they married 9 days later. Together they grappled through his PTSD and the handicaps of being a head injury survivor of Vietnam. Happily their marriage brought together the children from their previous marriages; Donald's two son's Don Jr.,and Michael and daughter Annette, and Donna's two boys Paul and James. Don and Donna's love for each other and complete faith in God guided them into a life of service volunteering at churches, for the Red Cross and the Fire Department. They also interviewed for and became foster parents taking in over 46 special needs children they were assigned, who were deemed unattachable and unadaptable babies. Fostering brought into their life their 6th child Brandy, whom they eventually adopted. With their nurturing care Brandy lived when the doctors told them she would not.
Don always had questions about that fateful night in Vietnam and had a desire to put the pieces back together, but didn't know how. For years they requested and finally received his medical records from the Army only to be unable to find the needed information. By some miracle one day Gale "Big Bertha" Bertrand who had been looking for Don for years, finally connected.
Their time spent together in the hospital after their injuries made Gale the only person Don could really remember. Don and Donna were excited because Gale shared with them that the platoon had been getting together for reunions. This gave Donna the motivation she needed and she began looking through Don's medical records again, finding the name Dr. Young. With the advancement of technology she was finally able to locate the neurosurgeon who took care of Don in Vietnam, Dr. Harold F. Young in Richmond, Virginia. She called him and the two eventually reunited 41 years later. Don also attended one of the reunions and reunited with Gale, 'Doc' Brown, and other platoon buddies. The reunions helped Don put together the true story of what happened to him that night and it turned out to be a very healing experience.
Don and Donna currently live in Lebanon, Missouri and even though Don's health is not what it used to be he continues to live a life of service, attending church services and veteran gatherings. He is known for always praying for our veterans and honoring them for their service, for they are not to be forgotten.
Gale 'Big Bertha' Bertrand
Gale Bertrand was born in Campbell, Nebraska and grew up in the farm lands of Upland, Nebraska. He was drafted into the military and served in Vietnam, being awarded the nickname 'Big Bertha' by his fellow comrades. On December 12, 1969 he lost both of his legs during an attack portrayed in the documentary film, 'Vietnam War Miracle.'
Gale spent over 16 months in recovery, first at Camp Drake in Japan and ending up in Fitzsimmons in Denver, Colorado where he was finally released on March 18, 1971. After the war he married his wife Cinda and had four amazing children, settling in Kearney, Nebraska where he has lived for the past 47 years. He founded Kitchen Direct where he sold cabinets until just a few years ago. He now enjoys semi-retirement spending time with family and friends including their eight beautiful grandchildren.
John 'Doc' Brown Jr.
John Brown Jr. grew up in Richmond, Kentucky graduating from high school there in 1966. He was drafted into the Army in1968 where he volunteered to become a combat Medic thinking it might keep him off the front line. He was wrong and was sent to the field in Vietnam for 8 months beginning in May of 1969, serving as a platoon medic with the 196th Infantry. 'Doc' spent the rest of his tour in an aid station in Chu Lai. His fellow soldiers would say he was a gifted and talented medic and saved the lives of many more men than depicted in 'Vietnam War Miracle'.
The Army awarded John with the Army Commendation Medal for his heroic efforts on the night of December 12th and the nights that followed. When he returned home he married his sweetheart Rebecca, then having two children, a son Bryan and daughter Leigh Ann. He worked as a letter carrier for the United Sates Post Office in Ormond Beach, Florida, retiring in 2010. He and Rebecca are the happy grandparents to grandson Spencer. 'Doc' is an avid bass fisherman and enjoys working part time with Bass Pro Shop in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Dr. Harold F. Young
Dr. Harold Young was born in Tiffin, Ohio in 1938 and received his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Ohio State University College of Medicine in 1963. He completed neurosurgical training at the University Hospitals of Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968 and was then drafted into the U.S. Army in 1969. He served as neurosurgeon at the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai Vietnam from 1969-1970.
Dr. Young was awarded the Bronze Star medal during his duty as a neurosurgeon in Vietnam and upon returning to the United States in 1971 was appointed Chief of Neurosurgery at the Fitzsimmons General Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado where he received the Meritorious Service medal.
In 1972, Dr. Young joined the staff at Medical College of Virginia Hospital at the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond, VA. He continued his career investigating and doing research on severe traumatic head injury, receiving significant National Institutes of Health Research funding for some 24 years which resulted in seminal improvements in reducing mortality and morbidity of patients sustaining severe head injuries including missile wounds of the central nervous system. Since 1985 Dr. Young has served as the McGlothlin professor and chairman of the Department of Neurological Surgery at the Virginia Commonwealth University Hospitals.
During his time at MCV/VCU, Dr. Young has recruited an outstanding faculty, particularly focused on treating stroke patients and promoting the use of new neuro-interventional technologies for major neurological diseases and injuries. Dr. Young has received numerous awards and honors including the Virginia Commonwealth University Award for Excellence, the Presidential Medallion, and the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award. Dr. Young is married to Theresa Young and they have four children, Lisabeth, Rachel, Melissa, and Robert as well as nine grandchildren. Dr. Young and his family and children continue to reside in Richmond, Virginia where he continues to practice neurological surgery caring for patients, teaching students and residents, as well as continuing investigations on serious neurological disorders. Two of his specialties are traumatic brain injury and hydrocephalus in the adult population.
Thomas Michael Hayes (aka Tommy or Tom to family & friends) was born in Manhattan, New York to Thomas Jerome and Helen Hayes on August 11, 1948. Tom grew up in Bellerose, New York with his parents and younger sister Maureen, graduating from St. Agnes High School in 1966. He attended college for one year before joining the U.S. Army in October 1967.
Tom served 2 tours in Vietnam (4/4/68 - 1/15/69 and 9/28/69 - 7/7/70), attaining the rank of Sergeant in February 1970. Upon leaving the service Tom entered St. John's University in Queens, New York graduating with a degree in Political Science in 1973.
Tom had aspired to attend law school but instead pursued a career in law enforcement. He married Barbara Sibrel on February 25, 1977 and together they raised 5 wonderful children; Suzanne, Mary, Ann Marie, Caitlin and Thomas Jerome (who also served in the Army from 2005 to 2009 and was deployed to Iraq twice). Tom joined the Baltimore City Police Department in March 1979 and in May 1982 began a career with the FBI as a Special Agent serving in Baltimore, Maryland, Erie, Pennsylvania and finally in Washington DC in June 1984.
Tom spent the last 5 years of his career working in the FBI Laboratory, retiring at the mandatory retirement age of 57 in August 2005. He went on to serve as a Magistrate in Prince William County, VA for one year. He finally decided it was time to enjoy some down time, retiring to his books and recliner while still doing some part time work as a background investigator.
Sadly, Tom passed away suddenly on January 14, 2017.
Craig Johnson was born in upstate New York, but grew up in Phoenix, AZ. He was drafted into the army in September, 1968, but before entering the army, he had earned a B.A. in Literature and married his college sweetheart Bonnie McLeod.
Craig's total military service was 18 months. He was in Vietnam for nine months and after sustaining an injury went from an in country hospital to Camp Drake in Japan and then was shipped stateside and eventually left the army from William Beaumont Hospital in El Paso, TX. For his service he was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Within a few days of arriving home from Texas, he enrolled in Northern Arizona University for a Masters in English Composition graduating in 1972. In 1979, he earned an M.B.A.
Craig then joined a management company providing permanent management to acute care hospitals. He stayed in healthcare for 20 years. He left the management company about the time the internet came into existence. He became an IT Project Manager working primarily for Bank of America and Charles Schwab, and retired from Charles Schwab in 2004.
Now enjoying retirement, he and his wife Bonnie live in Oakdale, CA where they raised two amazing boys – now men.
Donna Mason was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. At the age of 36 Donna decided to follow her dream of becoming a nurse, studying and graduating from nursing school in 1981. She met her true love Don Mason in October 1981 and they were married after only nine days. After marriage Donna felt her first priority was to take care of Don, who calls her his 'domestic engineer'. But she also decided to put her nursing skills to use creating a life of service with Don by applying for and receiving permission to provide foster care to children in need. Their journey together has included raising their 6 children as well as serving others by performing volunteer work with the Red Cross, Fire Department, theirs and other churches and fostering at risk children. Donna is cherished and known around Lebanon, Missouri as the "woman you call to get anything done” and if it has to do with Veterans or Veterans affairs she will be in the middle of it.
Tony Paulson was born in Whitehall, Wisconsin and grew up on a dairy farm near Pigeon Falls, Wisconsin. He was drafted into the Army in 1968 attending Officer Candidate School, and was then commissioned as a Lieutenant in 1969. He spent 4 years in the Army and while in Vietnam served as a platoon leader in Bravo Company, then transferring to Charlie company where he was platoon leader and company commander.
He was awarded three Bronze Stars for Valor along with two Army Commendation Medals for Valor. He discharged from the service with the rank of Captain.
After Vietnam he married his sweetheart Sue settling in Madison, Wisconsin where they had raised their son and daughter. Tony joined the Wisconsin State Patrol and was a dispatcher and Communications Supervisor, retiring after 31 years. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin and enjoys traveling.
1st Lt. Frank A. Fortuna
Born on July 2, 1946 in Elizabeth, NJ to the late Frank and Anna Fortuna, Frank Anthony Fortuna Jr. attended St. Patrick's grammar and high schools in the town of his birth. Frank earned a bachelor's degree in finance from St. Bonaventure University where he was also in the ROTC program. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at graduation in June 1968, later being promoted to First Lieutenant.
Frank served a distinguished tour of duty in Vietnam from August 15, 1969 to July 23, 1970 as Artillery Small Unit Commander and Forward Observer for B Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, Americal Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. Following his service in Vietnam, Frank married Patricia Nitko in May 1972. Together they raised two children, Laura and Frank III, and later became grandparents to four - Ryan, Emily, Claire and Frank IV, who was named specifically in his honor.
Frank went on to earn an MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1984. He worked in corporate finance for Amerada Hess and then BASF until his retirement in 2004. He enjoyed college basketball, Baltimore Orioles baseball, traveling the world, and living in Long Valley, NJ and Naples, Florida. Frank was a proud patriot and a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans.
Frank was diagnosed with stage IV glioblastoma multiforme in July 2014 and passed away on September 15, 2014. Per his wishes, he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on January 28, 2015.