STERLING TWP. – A local veteran was recently featured on various billboards throughout the area in recognition of his military service.
Don Wilmot, 70, was featured on seven different billboards in the region. The billboards were done by Lamar Advertising in Scranton.
“They have been on display since January,” Wilmot stated.
Wilmot grew up in Sterling and attended the Greene-Dreher Sterling School in Newfoundland. Upon graduation he entered the United States Marine Corps (USMC). He fought with the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 361 (HMM 361) as a crew chief and door gunner on a Marine UH-34 helicopter for 13 months.
In all, Wilmot flew in 434 missions, with 360 being combat missions. He rose through the ranks during his military career, going from Lance Corporal to Corporal and finally to Sergeant.
Through his military experience, Wilmot earned the following: National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Air Crew Combat Wings, Vietnam Cross of Gallentry with Silver Star, 18 Air Medals, USMC Good Conduct Medal, President Unit Citation, Rifle Sharpshooter Badge, Pistol Sharpshooter Badge, Two Battlefield Promotions of Corporal and Sergeant.
Receiving an honor
“Lamar Advertising contacted me through the efforts of Joe Tunis and Jerry O'Donnell,” Wilmot said.
Tunis is a World War II veteran from Lake Ariel who was previously featured on billboards.
“I met with Jerry in the fall and he mentioned Joe Tunis got awards and was recognized for his service in World War II,” said Tom Donohue, general manager for Lamar Advertising. “He thought it would be a great idea to reach out to Joe and do a billboard.
“Jerry was the drive behind doing it. We thought it was a neat idea.”
He said Tunis brought in his awards and pictures from when he was in the service and what he looks like now.
“We listed the medals and honors he received [on the billboard],” Donohue stated. “It was great recognition.” He added this was the company's first time doing this type of billboard.
“We do a ton of public service, but it's mostly for fundraising events,” Donohue said. “We never had a recognition type campaign.”
Tunis told Lamar Advertising about Wilmot and they reached out to him as well.
Wilmot provided them with a current and service photo as well as honors and awards he received.
“Vietnam veterans weren't treated with respect like veterans from other wars were,” Donohue said. “Don said they even got spit on.”
“It was an honor to all Vietnam veterans and not just me,” Wilmot stated. “I never dreamed something like this would happen. It's brought a lot of good compliments from people who have seen the billboard.
“We've waited 50 years for recognition. It's very good there's been a turnaround in the United States of views toward Vietnam veterans.”
Donohue said Lamar Advertising is seeing a positive response as well.
“It's nice to be able to say thank you to them [veterans] for their service to our country,” he said. “Don was almost in tears when we showed him what the billboard would look like."
Local WWII Veteran Joseph Tunis was the first hometown hero displayed on Lamar's billboards in Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
“He said he was mesmerized when he saw the billboard. It meant the world to him.”
Donohue said he's glad they did the billboards.
“We want to continue doing them,” he stated. “This is an ongoing thing.”
He added he feels blessed that he became friends with Wilmot and Tunis.
“I'm happy we made them happy and we will do the same thing with whoever in the future,” Donohue said.
“It's an honor to have been chosen,” Wilmot said. “My greatest gratitude goes to Lamar Advertising for their support of veterans.”
The original article ran on WayneIndependent.com »