Last week we laid to rest a patriot; a true American hero who gave all for country and to our returning combat veterans. Personally, I was blessed to both know him and work with him. Jerry Donnellan served the county and countless veterans as chief of Rockland’s Veterans Agency for 30 years.
Jerry is a three-time Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam War veteran who has shown generations of returning members of the service that they can live productive lives; even if they sustained devastating injuries as he did. He gave tirelessly to this county and this country. He spent 30 years as Director of Rockland’s Veterans Agency and his contributions will not soon be forgotten.
As Director, Jerry started the annual watchfires every Memorial Day, oversaw the creation of the county’s first satellite Veteran’s Administration health clinic, located in New City and worked tirelessly with veterans and their families to educate them about post-traumatic stress disorder.
Donnellan was a one-man army for veterans and truly ahead of the curve in his advocacy and outreach efforts. He truly understood what these men and women needed upon returning home. Whether it be a helping hand, a reassuring smile or one of his trademark self-deprecating jokes; Jerry’s door was always open to any veteran who needed help.
Now Jerry’s great-nephew, Cole Donnellan, is picking up where Jerry left off. As part of his High School Senior project Cole has started a website called pegleg22.com, named after Jerry’s former production company and paired with the number 22. That’s the number of veterans who take their own lives everyday across our nation.
Cole’s goal is to bring attention to and find ways to help these servicemen and women. He has started a “gofundme page” to raise money for service projects that directly help veterans in need of a hand up. In memory of Jerry he is stepping up to take care of our veterans; men and women who have given so much of themselves and now need a helping hand. Please consider donating your time or money to Cole’s project to make a real difference in the lives of our veterans.
While Jerry’s loss is a grievous one for our entire community and for me personally, it is also an opportunity for all of us to step up in his memory. Our Veterans Service Agency is standing by to continue and build upon Jerry’s mission of educating and assisting each and every one of our veterans in need.
Jerry, you will be sorely missed but you and your mission will not be forgotten. In fact, we will build on the foundation you laid out.