Memorial Day 2021: A story of selfless heroism

In October 2007, I learned in an email from an Army chaplain in Baqubah, Iraq that one of the most beloved Soldiers at FOB Warhorse had recently been killed.

Attached to the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team out of Ft. Hood, Texas, Staff Sgt. Donnie D. Dixon was rushed to a field hospital after being wounded earlier in the day.  Told by the field surgeon that he was in no condition to return to combat, he ignored the warning, grabbed his rifle and helmet, and rushed to the side of his men, who were under attack by Iraqi insurgents.

Shortly after arriving on the scene, a sniper's bullet killed Sgt. Dixon.  He left behind a wife and four young children, paying the ultimate price for voluntarily leaving the safety of a hospital bed to come to the aid of his men.  If there's any greater example of selfless heroism, leadership, and devotion to duty, I can't imagine what it would be.

When military members die in service to their country, many Americans don't give it a second thought, even on Memorial Day.  But a fallen soldier's family and combat buddies certainly do.  Here are some memorial sentiments I found online about Donnie Dixon:

● "I don't want anyone to go through this.  It's hard.  It's very hard.  But you don't experience the pain until you go through it yourself."

—Dessie Dixon, on the death of her son

● "It's hard to believe but graduation has arrived!!!  I think back during the day I gave birth and the look you had on your face… gleaming!!  Now as she gets ready to walk across the stage, I know you will have that same gleaming smile as you did 17 years ago. LUV N MISS U!!"

—Latrese Dixon, Sgt. Dixon's wife, referring to the high school graduation of  their daughter

● "I wear a bracelet for Donnie every day.  I didn't know him well but we served together in Ba'Qubah and I got to talk to him a few times.  2007 was a terrible year and I saw a lot of death and destruction, but Donnie's death stood out the most in my heart and on my mind.  I never want him to be forgotten.  I say a toast to him every Memorial Day and at any Army dinner I go to.  Donnie, you may be on guard up there, but you are so missed down here."

—Jimmy Hammond, Memorial Day 2011

● "Daddy I miss you and it's not the same when I see your picture.  When I hear about people saying I hate my dad I feel like crying.  Your memorial is coming up and I don't want to go because I'm scared of really crying.  I love and miss you Daddy.  Your daughter Shabria."

Four years ago, I learned the whereabouts of Sgt. Dixon's wife and spoke with her by phone.  She said she's doing better, but I could tell in her voice she still suffers from having lost the father of her children, the love of her life.

Image: National Archives.

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