Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Highlighting our VA Volunteers: Dennis McDonald
At the age of 17, Dennis McDonald decided to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. Not yet 18, he needed his parent’s permission.
“I wasn’t doing very well in high school, so I made my father sign for me,” said McDonald, who grew up in San Diego.
But his decision to join was largely due to his father who served in World War II in the Pacific.
“My Dad was a platoon sergeant for a heavy machine gun platoon,” he said. “By the time the war was over, he was a captain. He loved it.”
McDonald, who served 1965 to 1971, deployed to Vietnam in 1966 with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and then volunteered to serve a second tour in 1967.
“Our Squadron was based at Marble Mountain, just outside Da Nang,” said McDonald. “Then we had outposts at Hue, Dong Ha and Khe Sanh.”
McDonald served on hundreds of combat missions as a helicopter machine gunner.
“It was pretty interesting work,” he said. “I wanted to go to Vietnam. I got everything there I anticipated and then some.”
After the Marines, he worked in the carpenter shop at the University of California and later moved to Vermont.
More than 23 years ago, he moved to Tulsa to take care of his elderly parents.
After being diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2005, McDonald was forced to retire from Tulsa Public Schools where he managed the Maintenance Department for nine years.
That same year, he also decided to enroll as a patient at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic. After years of visits to the clinic, he became friends with several VA volunteers and decided to ask if there were any volunteer openings.
In 2015, McDonald began volunteering twice a week at the Main Information Desk.
“My wife kind of got tired of having me around the house all the time,” he said with a laugh. “I really enjoy it. Anything I can do to help our Veterans, I’m happy to do.”
After being a VA patient for 14 years, McDonald said he is also happy with the care he receives.
“I hear people talk down about VA health care,” he said. “I have nothing but good things to say about it. I’ve had several surgeries. I’ve had a lot of work done. I’m truly happy with their health care and glad to have it.”