It’s been sixteen years since Margaret Levens’ son, Marine Staff Sergeant Donnie Levens, lost his life serving his country. The twenty-five-year-old Long Beach native died doing what he loved, flying, a dream Donnie had since he was eight years old. It was a dream he pursued and took to new heights during his honorable service in the United States Marines Corps.
One can only imagine the grief Margaret, and all Donnie Levens’ family and friends, bore upon learning of his death in a helicopter crash over Dijibouti, Africa, on February 17, 2006.
Though short, Donnie’s life was a life well-lived. Among many honors, Staff Sergeant Donnie Levens received the Good Conduct Medals for 1998-2001 and 2001-2004 from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. He was also awarded the Air Medal for meritorious achievement by former President George W. Bush, who praised the Long Beach native saying, “In the successful completion of eighty-nine combat sorties over Iraq, he contributed materially to the success of national objectives in the liberation of the Iraqi people.”
Donnie Levens was also recognized many times for his volunteer work, which began at age fifteen with his first mission trip to Saltillo, Mexico, when he was a member of the Catholic Youth Organization. He continued volunteering at various places throughout the world until his passing.
Donnie attended St. John’s Catholic School in Gulfport, so his mother said it’s only fitting that Staff Sergeant Donnie Levens’s service and sacrifice be displayed for all to see, which it is - at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School’s library.
A mural honoring the late Marine keeps Donnie Levens’ memory alive, as well as his legacy.
“This is a CH-350 helicopter, which is what Donnie was flying in when he went down,” Margaret Levens says, standing alongside the mural, also pointing out how Levens’ name is painted on the mural of the helicopter, as well as the date of the crash, 02/17/06. There is also a star with angel wings to signify he’s gone.
The mural was painted by a local artist who works at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School.
“Sandy Salvage painted it for us,” Levens says. “Donnie loved to read, so that’s the reason we chose to put it in the library,” Levens said.
Levens smiles as she says her late son would be happy about the mural’s placement.
“The library was his favorite place to be, besides talking about military or flying. He loved to read,” Levens says.
Donnie Levens’ photo is also featured on another wall in the hallway of the school, alongside dozens of other local men and women who have served in our nation’s military.
His mother, Margaret, hopes the mural will inspire other young people to follow their dreams, just like her son Donnie did.
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