Bonner Springs Darrell Donahue was inducted into the military in 1944 at Fort Leavenworth at the age of 18.
“I enlisted because that was the thing to do,” Donahue, a Bonner Springs resident, said of that time. “Every able-bodied person was going to the military, going to service. There was no doubt if you were patriotic and loved your country, you were going to go. There wasn’t any second thoughts. It was just something you were going to do.”
Now, more than 60 years later, Donahue will come full circle, returning today to Fort Leavenworth to receive the Bronze Star medal he was supposed to have been awarded after completing his military service in 1946.
“I didn’t even know about it,” Donahue said of the award, which soldiers weren’t eligible to receive until a year after they had returned home.
Originally, those soldiers who had been in close combat with the enemy for 30 days or more would automatically receive a combat infantry or combat medic badge recognizing the risk to their own lives in service to the Army. But in 1947, Donahue’s friend, retired Lt. Col. Ed Kennedy said, the regulations were changed to say that any soldier who had received the badge would also receive a Bronze Star medal.
Donahue, who served as a sergeant in Company B of the 51st Infantry Battalion of the Fourth Armored Division of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, received his combat infantry badge but had no idea he was also supposed to have received a Bronze Star until this year. Kennedy had been typing the almost-daily letters Donahue had written home during the war — they will be turned into a diary Donahue will donate to the library at Fort Leavenworth — when he came across Donahue’s orders showing he was eligible to receive the Bronze Star.
Kennedy said Donahue wasn’t the first to miss out on such an award.
“The problem is, like so many veterans, after World War II they got out of the military and just didn’t care about it,” said Kennedy, who has known Donahue for several years through their membership in the Gideons International organization.
Donahue said this was the case for him. Though he remembers on at least two occasions missing death “by a few seconds,” once the war was over, there were more important matters to think about.
“I just took the medals that they gave me, you know, and I had other things on my mind, like what am I going to do now?” Donahue remembers.
Unaware he could have pursued the medal, Donahue took advantage of what the GI Bill of Rights afforded him, went to business school and became an accountant. He got married in 1950 and is now a prominent figure in Bonner Springs, serving as a member of the Bonner Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6401, Bonner Springs Rotary Club and on the Bonner Beautiful Commission.
Donahue says he’s looking forward to receiving the medal after so many years.
“After this length of time, it probably would have meant more at that time, but as the years pass, it’ll be nice to have it,” he said.