Today We Remember: Army Staff Sergeant Donnie Dixon
Donnie Dixon talked about joining the military practically from the time he said his first words. At 18, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and set off for boot camp. From his first days in boot camp until his untimely death at 37, Staff Sergeant Dixon was the epitome of a soldier's hero.
All combat veterans display bravery on a daily basis. But Staff Sergeant Dixon had something special, something beyond bravery that made him a beacon of strength and faith and courage for his fellow soldiers. "He had the natural ability to stay focused and take charge in any situation," said Colonel David Sutherland, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Calvary Division. "He had an infectious laugh, once you heard him laugh, you couldn't help but join in," said Captain Michael Duran, Dixon's platoon leader. "He had a way of telling stories—he was always entertaining and could tell a story about anything."
"He was a great friend, mentor and leader; he was a great father figure. He always placed the mission and the welfare of his soldiers first. No matter what mission came up, Staff Sergeant Dixon was always ready," said Staff Sergeant Mario Whitaker, one of Dixon's fellow Non- Commissioned Officers (NCO). "He was a man of his word and stood up for what was right. He was blunt and to the point. I looked to him for advice, and I knew he would tell it to me straight." "He welcomed all challenges and did not back down from anything or anyone regardless of rank or position. And, he often encouraged his soldiers to do the same."
"Staff Sergeant Dixon meant a lot to everyone. He was the type of person that would do anything for everyone."
"He was a dedicated family man. He was really proud about his family, and everyone knew how much of a family man he was. If you went into his room, you would see birthday cards, anniversary cards... and pictures of his wife and kids."
"Staff Sergeant Dixon was my first line supervisor and best friend while I was in the US Army," said Sergeant Tommy Haire. "He was the living embodiment of an NCO, leader and warrior."
Sergeant Haire emphasizes Staff Sergeant Dixon's stick-to-itiveness. He tells the story of an ongoing "argument' that they had about Dixon's beloved Miami Hurricanes and about who was the better defensive end—Warren Sapp or Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson. "Donnie was convinced that Sapp was the better player. I was convinced that Johnson was the superior. But Donnie hammered and hammered—and even enlisted other soldiers to back up his argument points. Finally, after two full days of relentless teasing and arguing, I finally gave in. It became a running theme, so much so that one day, while on a combat patrol, we came under fire by the enemy, and there was a lot of confusion and radio chatter. Dixon spoke to me over the internal headset. In a perfectly calm voice, during a very tense time, he said, 'Sergeant Haire, you need to get us out of this situation so I can continue educating you on NCAA Football.' At that moment I knew everything would be fine. If Donnie Dixon was calm enough to keep up the argument in that moment, then I should be calm enough to call out enemy combatants and eliminate them. And I did."
Staff Sergeant Donnie Dixon was killed in action during his second tour of duty in Iraq. "Days before he was killed, Staff Sergeant Dixon was wounded during a suicide bombing," said Colonel Sutherland. "Like always, he was by my side. Staff Sergeant Dixon was anxious to be returned to duty so he could get back in the fight with his team. That was the type of soldier he was. It was that devotion he displayed on a regular basis that provides me faith."
His friend and fellow NCO, Staff Sergeant Whitaker, summed up the legacy of Staff Sergeant Donnie Dixon in a few words: "Some people come into our lives and quietly go. Others stay forever and leave footprints on our hearts. That's what Staff Sergeant Dixon did for me, and we will always carry on his legacy."