Lieutenant Colonel Rich Donaghy’s Thoughts on Veterans Day

Photo Courtesy of the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro
Donaghy flew an OA-4M Skyhawk, shown here departing from MCAS El Toro Base in the early 1980’s.

Lauren Kettner, Staff Writer

Veterans Day is a holiday of remembrance for all men and women who have served in any of the five military branches: Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy. Rich Donaghy is a war survivor in his 70s. He lives in Irvine and served in the Marine Corps from 1964 to 1985, stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro for almost five years.

As Donaghy’s experience and rankings grew, his impact grew on more Marines, and he left a lasting impact.

“[On El Toro Base], I had a 920 man squadron,” Donaghy said. “The challenge was so much bigger. I really had a lot of Marines depending on me to take care of them.”

Although each of the base locations are different, all bases have a sense of companionship between the Marines.

“I loved the comradery of the Marine Corps. You get into a unit, there might be 30 officers and 250 to 300 enlisted men, and we really become family,” Donaghy said. “It’s very challenging. It’s extremely competitive, especially in aviation.”

Portola adopted some military-themed names for the house system. Donaghy was familiar with some names.

“Hercules is a C130, four-engine transport. In the Marine Corps version, it’s used to refuel other aircraft in flight. I have [refueled planes using Hercules],” Donaghy said. “Poseidon is a submarine. Orion is a navy reconnaissance aircraft, a turboprop called the P3. I think they are still flying [Orion] today.”

Times of appreciating veterans have changed since Donaghy returned from Vietnam.

“We’re in a good situation today where veterans are appreciated,” Donaghy said. “When somebody comes home [from] Iraq or Afghanistan, they’re looked up to. When I came home from Vietnam, it was exactly the opposite. We were far from heroes.”

The Marine Corps was founded on Nov. 10, 272 years ago.

“I think Veteran’s Day is important, and I hope that it continues for a very long time,” Donaghy said.