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Donald W. Watlington

Company L-1

24 Apr 1939 - 2 Sep 1983

Place of Death: Lawton, OK Interment: Highland Cemetery, Lawton, OK


Class Memorial Pages\L-1 Don Watlington.pdf

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

Donald Wayne Watlington was born in South Boston, VA, to Junius A and Carrie Ratliff Watlington. Don, the youngest son, had three brothers and one sister. All four of the Watlington brothers served their country in the Armed Forces, two in the U.S. Army and two in the U.S. Air Force. The third son, Bernard Emmert, graduated in the West Point Class of 1959 and served over 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. Donald's mother passed away in 2008, just a few weeks short of her 102nd birthday. Donald's father was a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service for many years.

South Boston, a small town of fewer than 10,000, is located in an agricultural region of southern Virginia. The principal crop was tobacco. Donnie and his cousin Bobby worked the tobacco fields during the summer and enjoyed the freedom of youth provided by this community. Swimming, movies, hunting and fishing were their normal activities. Bobby fondly, but sadly, remembers 15-year-old Donnie driving his new motor scooter into a thorn bush and totaling it! Donald excelled in Halifax High School, especially in mathematics, and developed artistic talents, often producing pen and ink drawings of South Boston scenes.

He graduated from high school in 1957 and immediately accepted a Congressional appointment from Congressman Tuck of the 5th District to West Point. He joined the Class of 1961 on a very hot but memorable day in July. South Area and Company L-1 were home for Don for the next four years.  As a plebe, he found himself taller than most of his companymates, especially the upperclassmen.  Prior to the Class of 1961, cadet companies were organized by height, and L-1 was home to some of the shortest cadets in the Corps.  As a plebe, Don was constantly harassed for his height and deep southern accent. Don overcame these harassments with a smile. The 1961 Howitzer quotes Donald: "There is not a damn thing wrong with my accent!"  His slow and pleasant Virginia drawl endeared him to classmates and others and set a conciliatory tone during many discussions.

During his four years at the Academy, Don participated in a myriad of activities: the Ordnance, French, Skeet, and Fencing Clubs and many a night playing bridge in the sinks, as the barracks basement was called. He furthered his artistic talent through the Art Club and was a contributing canoon artist for The Pointer magazine.

Following graduation, Don was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Artillery and attended the basic course at Ft. Sill, OK.  On completion of the course, Don was assigned to 3rd Bartalion, 2nd Artillery, at Ft. Hood, TX. It was here that he met and fell in love with Jacqueline "Jackie" Miller, and they were married on 2 Sep 1963. Don's car was non-operational at the time of the wedding and planned honeymoon, so he borrowed the car of his best man, Ray Tilghman, and the day was saved. Ray and Don had been companymates and bridge parmers at West Point, and their friendship continued after graduation. Don and Jackie had two sons, Donald A "Del", 29 Jun 1964 and Thomas W, 4 Dec 1969. Don's military career took him to Turkey in 1963, with a rerum to Ft. Sill in 1964 for the Artillery advanced course, followed by twu tours to South Viet Nam, 1967 and 1971, with Field Artillery units. Sandwiched between these tours was an assignment to McConnell.Air Force Base, where Don participated in the early efforts of the stealth bomber project. Don was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Viet Nam, the medal presented by BG W.E. Davis, Jr., Commander, 835th Air Division. Don also was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for his service at McConnell Air Force base.

Following his second tour to Viet Nam, Don returned to Ft. Hood with the 1st Barttalion, 78th Field Artillery. He was the executive officer initially and later the protocol officer at Headquarters, 2nd Armored Division. Don was instrumental in planning for and executing the state funeral for President Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1973. He then branch transferred to the Adjutant General's Corp in 1974, but, as a result of service connected illness, was medically discharged from the Army in 1975. Don served his nation with professionalism and dedication to the concept of Duty, Honor, Country for 14 years in the United States Army.

Don and his family moved to Lawton, OK, where he enrolled at Cameron University and pursued a course of study to become a Certified Public Accountant. He was employed by the City of Lawton and instrumental in the conversion of the accounting department from paper to an electronic data processing system. He was noted for his wit and great sense of humor. Don also became a gardener of note with his backyard vegetable farm. His pride in the fruits of his hands brought him back to his roots in South Boston.  Don was a member of the Mt. Cana Methodist Church of South Boston.

It was during this time that Don began to suffer back pain which was diagnosed as advanced lung cancer. Don passed away on 2 Sep 1983. His untimely passing at the prime of his life was a shock to all who knew Don and shared in his life achievements. His family and friends are thankful for all the wonderful times and only wish that his short stay with us could have been longer. In unison, his family and friends say, "Be thou at peace."

Jackie remained in Lawron, employed by civil service at Ft. Sill for 25 years before rerurning to Louisiana and her extended family.

-Classmates Charles H. Armstrong and Ray L. Tilghman,
with assistance.from Jackie and family and Bobby Ratliff, a cousin