Every morning Sailors aboard USS McFaul wake from their racks to welcome the day as a new challenge.
Walking the passageways, one cannot help but notice the sense of pride in the careful attention to every detail taken aboard the ship. The passages begin to come alive as Sailors take to the deckplates and head for breakfast. The sounds of laughter and camaraderie fill the mess decks as Sailors file in to enjoy their meal.
Scanning the crowded room, an empty table always catches my eye. There is one table that always stands alone, set for one, ENC (SEAL) Donald L. McFaul.
Twenty-four years ago, SEAL Team 4 deployed to Panama as part of Operation Just Cause. During the capture of Paitilla Airfield, the team encountered heavy enemy fire. McFaul left his position, while under heavy small-arms fire, to assist his wounded comrades. As he was carrying a seriously-wounded platoon member to safety, he was mortally wounded.
For his courage, honor, and sacrifice he was awarded a Purple Heart and Navy Cross.
In 1994, Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton announced that in honor of Donald McFaul’s actions and sacrifice, the Arleigh Burke-Class destroyer DDG 74, would be named USS McFaul. The keel was laid in 1996 and the ship was built with the finest technology known to man.
An honor, no doubt. Yet, there was something missing, something that would make DDG 74 the finest warship in the Navy. Something that would make the ship worthy of the name USS McFaul.
That missing piece was put into place on April 24, 1998 as her crew brought the ship to life during the commissioning ceremony. It is her Sailors who honor and exhibit the attributes of her namesake that made and continue to make DDG 74 the finest warship in the Navy and worthy of the name USS McFaul.
Every morning that lone table reminds me and the rest of the crew that what we do is for the team and the country just as Don did on December 20, 1989.
His table stands as an inspiration for all Sailors, every day. His traits of “Courage, Honor and Sacrifice” are our ship’s motto, and are emulated still today. After 24 years we have not forgotten where we come from and the sacrifices of those before us.
Donald McFaul’s legacy lives on through the Sailors serving today.