Monday, December 1, 2008 at 2 PM
Emotions were strong in the 800-square-foot game room, with four 50-inch high-definition screens for television-watching or video games - Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Wii - and a giant screen for movies. Part of the room’s cost was funded with $18,000 that David Donica of Houston collected in a fund in memory of his son, Dustin Donica, the 3,000th U.S. service member killed in Iraq. “I had no idea where this room was going to end up,” said Donica, whose son had asked him shortly before he was killed to visit a wounded comrade at Fort Sam. -Scott Huddleston Express-News
Judy and David Donica attended the dedication of Dustin’s Game Room and were delighted to greet some of the 3/509th PIR soldiers and families who served with Dustin in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Dustin’s squad member and very good friend, Logan, who was severely injured three weeks before Dustin was killed and was a patient at BAMC for 18 months, was in attendance to see his buddy honored. See Dustin’s Friend Logan post on this site.
Logan was married in San Antonio on Saturday, so it was quite a weekend for him.
“The center is awesome!! Everything from the building, landscaping, which is so very Texan, to the interior design, of course the game room, computer center for teaching computer skills, the fully stocked kitchen, the two story great room with fireplace, the covered barbeque outside area and the walking paths is absolutely fantastic, so well deserved, and we just love it all. Les Huffman, one of the developers, told me it is obvious that the gaming room is going to be the most popular room in the center. In fact, they will probably have to set one hour time limits. One of the soldiers asked if there would be any way the gaming room could be open 24/7. Lots of luck with that request! I don’t think we could have picked a more fitting benefactor for Dustin’s memorial fund. I think Dustin would have approved wholeheartedly with the way the funds have been used. This place is simply amazing.” -Judy Donica
David and Judy with the 3/509th PIR Geronimos
Click on all images to enlarge.
The Center For The Intrepid in the distance.
“Looking back, it is hard to believe that a little over a year ago, when I first contacted Les Huffman, there wasn’t even a game room in the plans. I told Les of Dustin’s, and many of his friend’s, avid interest in gaming and asked him if a corner of the TV room could be set up as a gaming area in the new center. I told him that I would like Dustin’s fund to be used to outfit the area with gaming systems, games and televisions. After meeting with the planning board, Les contacted me and said, “we’re going to do better, as we are now adding a gaming room.” WOW! My simple request was turned into a state-of-the-art gaming mecca which will give the wounded warriors immense pleasure. Dustin would be proud to have his name associated with such an incredible project. Our sincere thanks to the three wounded warriors who helped with the design of the room, and most especially to Erika and Les for their continued follow-through with our family, while making this tribute to Dustin a reality.” ~Judy
“Cory Birdsong told me that he kept something when he packed Dustin’s belongings to ship home from Iraq after Dustin was mortally wounded. He hoped that we wouldn’t mind. He opened his uniform sleeve pocket (above in photo) and showed me Dustin’s Army name patch from his uniform. ‘I have Dustin with me every day,’ said Cory. Kristin Birdsong (designed the KIA bracelet for Linck, Gifford & Dustin - see post & tab on this site) told me that Cory still talks about Dustin. When I gave her an engraved Christmas ornament with Dustin’s name on it, she just held it and lightly rubbed her finger over the engraving saying, ‘Dustin used to call me Lady Bird, Lady Birdsong. I miss being called Lady Bird.’ Of course I teared up at that point. They were good tears, from good memories. We also talked about some of Dustin’s other antics in AK and Kristin is going to look for more pictures of Dustin from his visits to their home in AK before the deployment to Iraq in 2006. The Birdsongs are now stationed in Texas. They are really sweet. Maybe I should hand out disclaimer cards before talking to Dustin’s friends, warning them that anything they say, or any acts of kindness will appear on this blog. Our family is so grateful to all who were a part of Dustin’s life, and we treasure the memories shared.” ~Judy
Memorial plaque installed
Returning Heroes Home
The Entertainment Room is dedicated in memory of
Dustin R. Donica
July 11, 1984 - December 28, 2006
Operation Iraqi Freedom
3/509th Army Airborne
“Dustin will be the heart-beat of the entertainment room.”
Returning Heroes Home, the nonprofit organization that raised the $5M for this project, is now collecting additional money to pay off a $500,000 debt for the building and also plan for the creation of a $1 million green Recreational/Therapeutic Garden park next to this facility.
The Donicas would like to express their sincere gratitude to all of their family, friends and neighbors who contributed so generoulsy to Dustin’s BAMC Memorial Fund. December 28, 2008 will mark the second anniversary of Dustin’s death. Dustin will be the heart-beat of the game room, and this facility is a perfect way to help keep Dustin’s fun-loving memory alive.
If you would like to make a donation to the center in Dustin’s name call 210.241.0811.
See BAMC Returning Heroes Home Project Plans blog post for additional information and photos.