AFRH-W Resident Highlight – Donald Marsh
By Christine Baldwin, Librarian
Donald Marsh was born in Colorado, but moved to California as a child. At 14, he moved back to Colorado to finish school. He then got a job working for the city of Denver on the first IBM punch card tabulating machines. All of his peers had been in the U.S. Navy Reserves, but they switched to the U.S. Army. So Don joined the Army. After basic training in Camp Cooke, California, Don went to Japan and then was in one of the first units sent to Korea. After six months and a tragic accident at home, he was given a hardship discharge and left the Army.
Don worked in the Denver Sheriff’s office, but due to the low pay, he switched to the Denver Police Department and then later to the San Fernando, California Police Department. But he soon realized he was better off in the service and rejoined the Army. After being stationed at Fort Ord, California, Don thought he would like to go the France. But he was denied this tour and was sent to Germany instead. This ended up a good thing because Don met his future wife there. After a tour at Fort Lewis, Washington, Don was sent to Vietnam. But after a leg injury, he was medevac to California for six months. He then served on the AWOL Apprehension Team at Presidio, California.
Next he was stationed at Heidelberg, Germany with the 529th MP (Honor Guard) Marching Unit; ironic since he was walking with a limp. When the first sergeant saw him, he was not happy, since Don obviously couldn’t march. Both persevered, however, and Don was assigned the job as Cannon Signaler. One time during a march, when the Russian chief of staff from Berlin came, and Don was signaling to the canon, it “accidentally” blew the Russian flag off its pole. The 529th ended up very good to Don, promoting him twice during the tour. In fact, he and the 1st Sergeant became friends for life! Don also served on security detail with the Soviet Military Liaison Mission (SMLM). This included escorting the Russians when they wanted to shop. Once they were told that a bomb was in their vehicle. Don requested that he be able to search the vehicle and was asked “what if you find a bomb?” “I would call in the bomb experts,” he replied calmly. Fortunately, no bomb was found. At this point, they were receiving three to four bomb threats a day. Don was also able to go to Thailand, a tour that allowed his wife to go with him. It was back to Germany, where he ended up retiring from Manheim in 1979 as a master sergeant.
Don stayed in Germany, where due to the many classes that he had taken in law enforcement, he was able to teach for Central Texas College. He also worked as a security specialist at missile and ammunition sites. Don came to AFRH-W earlier this year and was recently honored at the Army Birthday celebration at Fort Belvoir, Virginia as the oldest soldier present.