By Steve Svetovich
The late Donald Michael Nemeth, Dunmore, is among 30 Pennsylvania war veterans being inducted into a Memory Program for Vietnam soldiers.
Nemeth, who went to Vietnam twice and earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, died August 14, 2011. He was only 62 and died due to lymphoma of the central nervous system. He contacted Agent Orange in the war and this led to further complications, resulting eventually in the lymphoma.
His daughter Nicole Reisinger, Kingston, said the Memory Program honors Vietnam veterans who died from causes due to the war. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund sponsors this program, she said, for the veterans who died from such causes related to the war.
Nemeth lived in Dunmore most of his life and graduated from Dunmore High School. Nemeth was born March 30, 1949, in Newark, N.J., and as a young boy, moved to Dunmore–the place he called home–with his mother, Marcella. While attending Dunmore High School, Donald participated in track and field, shotput, and varsity football. He also won the Junior Olympics for weightlifting, where he earned the nickname “Zeus.”
After graduated from DHS in 1967, he enlisted in the Army and did two tours in Vietnam as an infantryman and then as a platoon sergeant. He spent a total of 22 years in the service, earning the rank of first master sergeant. His military career took him to Korea, Germany, California, Washington State and Fort Dix, as well as Vietnam, and he was the first senior instructor of ROTC for Penn State Hazleton. After retiring from the Army, he worked various odd jobs and for the United States Postal Service.
After returning from his final tour of duty in Vietnam, Don, as he was known, met and eloped with Lucille Valentini, with whom he had two children, Nicole and Aaron, and three grandchildren. The couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary together.
Don was known to have a caring heart, and he adored his family, friends, animals, and hiking with his best friend Ed. He liked planting tomatoes, picking apples, pears, raspberries and blueberries–all from his homegrown trees and shrubs.
He loved laughing to the antics of The Three Stooges, watching Western movies, and cheering for the Philadelphia Phillies and Penn State football.
The ceremony will be held Saturday, June 16, at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. Nemeth’s wife, daughter, grandson and granddaughter will attend the prestigious event and ceremony which will honor 345 Vietnam veterans, including the 30 from Pennsylvania. More than 2,000 attendees will attend the In Memory ceremony, during which each of the 2018 honorees will have their name read aloud. Master of ceremonies will be Captain Denis Faherty, USN (Ret).
“For many Vietnam veterans, coming home from Vietnam was just the beginning of a whole new fight,” says Jim Knotts, president and CEO of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). “Many never fully recovered, either physically or emotionally, from their experiences. As these veterans pass, it is our duty and solemn promise to welcome them home to the place that our nation has set aside to remember our Vietnam veterans.”
The plaque that honores these veterans was dedicated as a part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial site in 2004. It reads: “In Memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”
In Memory began in 1999 and has since honored more than 3,200 veterans. The In Memory Honor Roll has a remembrance page for each veteran and can be seen online at http://www.vvmf.org/honor-roll.
“We found out about the Memory Program when we saw the ‘Wall that Heals’ in Swoyersville,” said his daughter. “We sent his biography and he was selected into the Memory Program. It is a sad thing, considering all the veterans who died due to the war. But at the same time it is an honor.
“My dad died from causes related to Agent Orange exposure contacted in Vietnam. It led to lymphoma of the central nervous system. He was in Vietnam twice.
“It feels sad because of all the men and women who died from being exposed to this. They were fighting for our country.
“My dad never talked about the war. He never mentioned even being there. And he spent 22 years in the service. He never talked anything related to the war. When we were older we heard only small bits and pieces from him. He may have mentioned it a little.”
Nemeth was proud of his Dunmore roots and grew up on Throop Street. After spending 22 years in the service, he retired in 1988. Not one to sit, he worked at various jobs until his passing.
“My dad used to say you have to leave work at work and when you are home you are home,” his daughter Nicole said. “He just wouldn’t talk about what he was doing or what he did in the service.
“He traveled from place to place with the military, but my mom stayed at home with us. My dad was a very quiet man. He was athletic. He received a lot of medals from the war, but never talked about that either.
“After he died, we found a bunch of clippings about him in newspapers he saved. We learned more about him by reading the news clippings. We learned on our own.
“When my dad was alive we went to the ‘ Wall that Heals’ at Nay Aug Park. Immediately, he saw a name on the Wall that he knew. It was an eerie feeling and that was it. He never talked about it.
“My dad was quiet and humble. He never boasted about himself.
“The ceremony will be nice with 345 honored this year. They do it every year, so a lot of Vietnam veterans have been honored. It will be an honor to be there for my dad.”
Vietnam medals and awards earned by Nemeth included: Bronze star, Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with silver star attachment, Republic of Vietnam campaign medal, Combat Infantryman badge, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with palm unit citation.
Career medals and awards earned are these, in order highest to lowest: Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster; Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster, Army Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster, Good Conduct Medal with silver clasp one loop (six awards for good conduct); National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with one silver star (silver star attachment for multiple campaigns); NCO Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral 4; Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral 2; Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Korea Defense Service Medal.
These are awards he earned during his service: Combat Infantryman Badge, Sharpshooter Badge with Auto Rifle bar and Grenade Bar; Drill Sergeant ID Badge, and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm unit citation.