Dustin’s Game Room Dedicated at Fort Sam - Memorial Fund Information

FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS RETURNING HEROES HOME DEDICATION

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

http://www.mysanantonio.com/military/Fort_Sam_opens_community_center_for_wounded_soldiers.html

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

January 2009

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.

http://www.armytimes.com/news/2008/11/ap_warwounded_112708/

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.

Veterans Day 2008

REMEMBERING THOSE WHO SERVE

Armistice Day

The 11th month, 11th day, 11th hour, 11minute

Click on images to enlarge.

Today at Klein Memorial Cemetery  in Texas, Dustin’s mother placed the newly acquired bronze flag holder which matches his military gravemarker.  It is made by The Flag Guys in New Windsor, NY.  The commemorative flag holder is just like the the ones at each of the veterans’ graves, placed by the local VFW, in the cemetery in Wisconsin near the Donica summer home.  The Donicas, because of cemetery regulations, will display this holder just on special holidays.  Dustin’s Dad attended the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Houston where he and Judy were invited to sit with the Gold Star Mothers & Fathers.  This day of remembrance still remains a very emotional day for Dustin’s entire family.

Dustin’s Intermediate School, where he attended grades 6 - 8, also pays tribute to veterans on November 11th.  The students take U.S. government and history classes, in addition to studying Texas history.  For Veterans Day every year, each student creates a poster to honor a veteran that they know. 

The posters include the veteran’s name, their relationship to the student, when and where the veteran served, medals of honor and a biographical sketch.  The posters are then displayed at the front of Kleb Intermediate School and in the hallways.  Less than ten years ago, Dustin and Courtney Donica made posters in memory of their maternal grandfather.  Now Dustin is also honored on one of those posters, too. 

The Veterans Day Weekend began for Judy & David at the bridge by Seabrook Shipyard in Texas where Dave worked on their boat.  In the brisk wind, the unfurled flags were a reminder of the approaching day that our nation remembers our veterans.

At Arlington National Cemetery in Virgina, Dustin, his squad leader SSGT Henry W. Linck, and CPL Micah S. Gifford, all who served in the same 3/509th squad in Operation Iraqi Freedom and were KIA in December of 2006, were honored.  Those who were wounded and are still serving from that squad were remembered, too.  Another great Texan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, visited Section 60 and walked right in front of this site as he paid tribute to the veterans all across this country.

“Forget me not.”

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