Bryan Paul Sullo

Thank You, Colonel Russell

In Life in General on 26 May 2014 at 9:33 pm


In 1993, as a member of Air Force ROTC Detachment 355, I and the rest of my class were given red, aluminum wrist bands inscribed with the name of a veteran missing in action, along with their service branch, and the date and location where they went MIA. Mine carried the name of Colonel Donald M. Russell and the scant information, “USAF 05 DEC 67 Laos”.

I wore Col Russel’s name on my wrist every day for a year, but I left ROTC, and eventually the band ended up packed away in a box of keepsakes and mementos.

I’d never given much thought to who Col Russell was, or the circumstances under which he went missing. I never expected to find out. Recently, though, I stumbled across the wristband and searched the Web for Col Russell’s name, hoping the improvements in the Internet over the last 20 years would yield some results. They did.

Colonel Donald Myrick Russell was a member of the 33rd Tactical Fighter Squadron. On December 5, 1967, he was the pilot of a Thunderchief Fighter (F-105D) on a mission over Laos, when his aircraft crashed. Colonel Russell is no longer MIA: His remains were recovered on May 11, 1994 (a day on which I was still wearing his name on my wrist) and identified on June 7, 1996. On 19 July 1996, his remains were buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Where did I find this information? On YouTube, of all places, where his cousin, Tim Humphrey, posted a moving (and musically excellent) song of tribute to Donald and, by extension, all fallen soldiers.

Memorial Day, 2014 (roughly the 20th anniversary of the recovery of Colonel Russell’s remains) seems an appropriate time to share this tribute.

Thank you, Colonel Russell, for your service and sacrifice. Your name now occupies a place of honor in my workshop, and will continue to do so.


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