Missouri’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, Col. (Ret) Donald “Doc” Ballard, will be the guest speaker for the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project’s annual Veterans’ Pen Celebration on Saturday, October 27, at the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri.
The event marks 60 years of continuous publishing of Veterans’ Voices—a magazine devoted exclusively to the writing of outpatient and hospitalized veterans served by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The national magazine was founded in 1952 by two Kansas Citians, Margaret Sally Keach and Gladys Feld Helzberg, and has been published three times a year ever since.
Col. Donald Ballard was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for heroism while serving as a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines in Vietnam. Returning to his platoon following the evacuation of two heat casualties, Ballard’s company was ambushed by a North Vietnamese Army unit and sustained numerous casualties. Observing a wounded Marine, he unhesitatingly moved across the fire-swept terrain to the injured man to render medical assistance. As he was preparing to move the Marine, an enemy soldier left his concealed position to fire and throw a grenade on the small group. Instantly, shouting a warning to the Marines, Ballard threw himself on the lethal explosive device. When the grenade failed to detonate, he calmly rolled over and threw it away. A split second later, witnesses say, the grenade exploded in midair, away from the wounded. Ballard then continued his efforts in treating other Marine casualties.
Following his Navy service, Ballard joined the Kansas Army National Guard in 1970 and was promoted to Colonel in 1998. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Col. Ballard now resides in Grain Valley, Missouri, where he is the owner of Swan Lake Memorial Park and Chapel of Memories Funeral Home there.