When serving in Vietnam, Jerry Donnellan and members of his platoon came under fire while in a ditch.
Shortly after Donnellan was shot in an arm and leg, a grenade made its way into the ditch as well. Donnellan was unable to get away, and when he awoke he had been rescued by a medic, put in helicopter and was without his right leg starting just under the knee.
Donnellan, now the director of the Rockland County Veterans Services Agency, was honored for his service, both during the Vietnam War and sinc on Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Association (VMA) of Congers’ Memorial Day Parade.
The other veterans honored Saturday were retired Marine Cpl. Megan Leavey, of Valley Cottage, and Sgt. Rex, an 11-year-old German Shepherd and her combat partner in Iraq.
“Being able to welcome Rex back is a real pleasure,” Donnellan said. “I understood my status right from the get go because being in the lead car people were [waving] and then said, ‘Look, mom, a dog!’”
Donnellan also noted he and Rex share some similarities, including that in dog years, they’re both senior citizens, they were both sergeants and both wounded. Of course, they have their differences as well, Donnellan said, including Rex is German and Donnellan is Irish and Rex was a Marine and Donnellan was in the Army.
Leavey and Rex were reunited this year after she garnered national attention while trying to adopt Rex once his military service was done. Leavey thanked everyone on Saturday for their support in her efforts and said Rex enjoys spending time at her house with her other two dogs.
“He’s really happy now. The Congers VMA and Jerry Donnellan, everybody’s just been so supportive, so nice to me and it’s just nice to have a happy ending for once,” she said. “I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend, I know I will now that I’m back with my partner, and just keep in mind all the troops overseas who aren’t here to celebrate with their friends and family and all the people that haven’t come back.”
Saturday’s parade featured veterans from different branches of the military, local students, boy and girl scouts, elected officials and plenty of others. Once the parade concluded, a ceremony was held that included the tolling of the bell for soldiers from Congers who have died while serving in the military.
The parade is a highlight each year for Frank Morea, a 99-year-old World War II veteran who’s lived in Congers for 41 years. He’s always excited to see how many people come out to the parade.
“To me it means quite a bit because I enjoy the people and the parade and everything that’s going on,” he said.
Donnellan also asked those to try and help out the veterans just returning home now and in the future.
“We have to remember that this is Memorial Day,” he said. “Typically, it’s the day when we remember those who didn’t come back, but I think we can best honor those who didn’t come back by taking care of those who did.”