by Agnes Geiger
It was a loving sister’s heartfelt story of losing her 18-year-old brother in the Vietnam War with a moving remembrance from a young Marine who escorted the body home and stayed with her family until after the funeral.
“Memorial Day: More than just a three-day weekend,” https://stockbridgecommunitynews.com/memorial-day-mor…-a-3-day-weekend/ by SCN writer and board member Judy Williams, received a second-place award in the National Communications Contest of the National Federation of Press Women.
“To receive a second-place writing award from an organization of professional women and men in the field of communications is especially gratifying,” Williams said. “This story was difficult for me to write. My emotions caused me to stop and put the story away many times.”
Williams’ brother, John Donohue, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at age 17. He turned 18 on Aug. 4, 1968, was sent to Vietnam on Sept. 7. Nine days later, on Sept. 16, he was killed in combat.
Marine Jim Aust, then 21 years old, was assigned the honor of escorting the body of John Donohue back to his family in the small town of Gregory, Mich. The day of John’s funeral, Aust said, was the most heart-wrenching of his life. Years later, he found John’s name on The Wall in Washington, D.C., put his hand over it and remembered his mom, dad and sister.
Williams said as the bereaved sister of a fallen Marine, she attends Memorial Day services each year and notes the smaller crowds. “Have people forgotten that Memorial Day is more than just a three-day weekend?” she asks.
The article was first published in the Stockbridge Community News in May 2019, as a tribute for Memorial Day. It was reprinted in SCN’s May 2020 edition, after winning first place in NFPW’s at-large contest and qualifying for the national competition.
In winning the national award, Williams’ article was judged against other first-place state entries in the Specialty Articles and Personal Essays category.
Judges in the at-large contest noted how Williams captured the true meaning of Memorial Day.
“Your story had me in tears,” said one. “Such a touching and sad story.”
“This is a tough story to tell … and to hear.”
” … a touching tribute and reminder of what Memorial Day is all about.”
However, many others also found meaning in the story of her family’s loss and brother’s sacrifice.
“It’s been wonderful having my kids say that they’ve shared this article with many of their friends and they’ve expressed how proud they are of me for sharing the true meaning of Memorial Day,” Williams said.
Williams, a founding director of SCN who also serves as SCN treasurer, was honored that her work was recognized by NFPW national contest for the third straight year. Last year, she won an honorable mention for the “Thank You Veterans” stories. In 2018, she and others contributed to a series of articles about veterans that took first place in the Special Series category. She also helped work on a project for “Stockbridge Community News celebrates one-year anniversary” that earned a second-place award in the Marketing Program or Campaign category.
Winners of the 2020 national contest were honored in an online ceremony June 6, after NFPW’s national conference was canceled because of coronavirus concerns. The conference was reset for 2021 in Little Rock, Ark.
NFPW is a nationwide organization of women and men pursuing careers across the communications spectrum, including print and electronic journalism, freelancing, new media, books, public relations, marketing, graphic design, photography, advertising, radio and television.