Consuelo Donohue, RN shares her remarks from Tufts Medical Center's Veterans Day Ceremony on November 9, 2016.
Thank you all for coming here today.
Thank you, Dr. Wagner, Linda Shelton and the committee for embracing and supporting our Veterans Day observance here at Tufts MC.
I am Consuelo O’Connell Donohue. I have practiced nursing here for 38 years. Together with Officer Mike Payne, we will share some of our stories as parents of vets.
My father was a World War II vet, part of the greatest generation. He instilled in me and my children a deep sense of patriotism, as well as an expertise in selling poppies at the town dump before Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
It wasn’t until I became the mother of active duty servicemen, did I come to understand the implications of having a son or daughter in harm’s way.
My two sons are graduates of VMI, and both have served. My daughter, as a MMA cadet, shipped out to the Suez Canal and spent time on Diego Garcia, where she entertained many offers of marriage. My son-in-law currently ships out to the Persian Gulf, most recently as master of the USS Ponce.
As parents, we all remember the sense of pride and joy when our child completed basic training, cheering them on while waiting for the inevitable.
My son Eddie, my favorite, commissioned as second lieutenant in the USMC, his infantry assigned to the third battalion eighth marines at Camp Lejeune, NC.
Within a year, we received the dreaded phone call.
"Mom, I am getting deployed."
Days before his departure, my husband and I drove to North Carolina in a car packed with cannolis and bread from the North End, frozen sauce and meatballs. After all, there is nothing like home cooking.
I spent time with Eddie, making sure I had Power of Attorney, my name on his checking account, and had arranged for the car to be stored. Our last minutes together included my reminding him to serve with honor and should he get hurt, to please make sure he was transferred to Tufts MC.
His last request – "Mom, should I die, I want to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery."
When Eddie shipped out, I became the mother to many other marines, Jimmy Picard from Sour Lake, TX, Ryan King from Greenville, PA and John Tamborin III from Newtown, CT, to name a few.
Their mothers became my sisters and support group. On those rare phone calls, we cautiously asked, "Have you seen Jimmy, Ryan or Tambo," and we would call each other and say, "Your son is ok today."
Letters from the front were short, usually asking for something to be sent. One letter that I treasure was sent by Eddie to his grandmother before a Memorial Day parade at home.
"Sometimes I took for granted what that parade meant, but being in such an area of Iraq, where every day there is constant fighting, the valor and the sacrifices made are truly the ultimate anyone can give for such a country as America, which in all my travels is still the best country in the world."
Over the course of his deployment, I became friendly with the gunny sergeant who was the OD for the battalion. I learned that his daughter loved horses, so I sent many gifts. Totally bribery, but it worked – I had the inside scoop for return date.
I can’t describe the sheer joy and relief I felt watching my son march into Camp Lejeune after a long flight home. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, babies stood back until the soldiers were dismissed, broke rank and joined their families.
To touch, hug, kiss my son, to know he made it home safe, was the best day of my life. Of course, one of the first calls I made home was to Tufts MC, to Dr. Kulig, his pediatrician, as I didn’t like the rash on his leg – some things just never change.
Today I want to thank all the parents and families of vets – you face a tough job supporting your sons and daughters in active duty and veterans often have a harder road.
To our veterans, I salute you for your courage and service to our great country. God bless America. Happy birthday, USMC.