8th MARINE CORPS DISTRICT, FORT WORTH, Texas -- The 8th Marine Corps District facilities manager was awarded the Armed Forces Civilian Service Medal for his actions during the District's evacuation for Hurricane Katrina.
Mike Donham, now of Arlington, Texas, served as a one-man rear detachment while the rest of the Headquarters unit continued recruiting operations from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The 23-year Marine Corps veteran is one of 61 civilian employees who were given the medal for their support after the hurricane.
The Armed Forces Civilian Service Medal was established in 1999 for civilian employees of the military engaged in prolonged military peacekeeping or humanitarian operations. In early 2006, the medal was approved for Department of Defense civilians who took part in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
“This award is a reflection not just on me, but the others who were there helping out,” Donham said. “I never could have done this without all the support I got from the command in Texas and the Marines, sailors and civilians who were in New Orleans working to get that base up and running again.”
Donham worked for months as the lone representative for the District in New Orleans. He did all he could to get the District’s building operational as soon as possible so units in New Orleans helping with rescue operations had a place to live and work out of.
“(Donham) was awarded for doing three major things,” said Maj. Delaney Williams, the District logistics officer. “He assessed and repaired the damage to our building, supported the units that needed to use our building for recovery operations and prepared the building for turnover to the base and the move to Fort Worth. Even while doing all of those things he opened his own home up to our Marines which went beyond what we expected of him.”
Donham went out of his way to help others that were there and District Marines who made the trip to salvage belongings from their own homes.
“Because my house was destroyed and the hotels were all full of evacuees having (Donham) there was great,” said Capt. Robert St. Croix, the District Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps Officer. “It was nice when I went down there (to know) I had at least a warm, safe place to sleep, a meal and a shower to use. His house was open and it really made traveling back to New Orleans easier.”
More than a year after the storm Donham now has had time to reflect on what this award means and everything he went through for those four months in the Crescent City.
“You do whatever you have to do to get the job done. Sometimes in a time of crises, you do things that you normally wouldn't consider doing,” Donham said. “Receiving this award made me stop and actually look back and realize what not only I had managed to do, but how much the command had supported me through all that we had accomplished together. This award is not just for me, but also for all those that worked beside me to get us to where we are today. This event bonded us all in ways that only those that lived this nightmare would understand.”