JOE DONAHUE of Brunswick's George T. Files Post 20 is pictured in front of the legion hall's new flag pole donated by a post member. Donahue has been selected as the Maine American Legion's legionnaire of the year.

JOE DONAHUE of Brunswick’s George T. Files Post 20 is pictured in front of the legion hall’s new flag pole donated by a post member. Donahue has been selected as the Maine American Legion’s legionnaire of the year.


He joined the Navy right out of high school and served three tours in Vietnam as a flight deck troubleshooter on an aircraft carrier, before moving onto civilian life in 1965.

But during those nine months Joe Donahue left the Navy, he couldn’t find anything that made him happy back home in South Worcester, Mass.

“Everybody was doing the same thing. Going to work, coming home. Going to work coming home, Nobody was doing anything… They just wanted to stay in their own routine.”

So he returned to the Navy where he served from 1961 to 1986.

Donahue, now of Brunswick, had an exciting Naval career. For the last 12 years, he was a flight engineer on C-130s flying special operations out of Guam and drone launches out of San Diego and equipment to the Antarctic. He lived in New Zealand where he met his wife, and made a lot of friends during his services.

He was the officer in charge of an electronics department in Rota, Spain when he got a call asking if he’d go to Brunswick Naval Air Station where one of the squadrons had lost a senior chief. He agreed to take his place, and was sent to VP10 in 1984. Two years later he retired.

“I loved the Navy, I just really enjoyed it,” he said.

But it was the right time. His daughter was ready to start high school. Now, the 72-year-old said he’d love to do it all over.

Of course his family would think differently. And for the last six years, he’s been very immersed in the work of his local American Legion post, seven serving the last three years as its commander.

Now he has been chosen as the American Legion’s legionnaire of the year for the state of Maine. It is the first time since Brunswick’s George T. Files Post 20 was established in 1919, that a member of the post had been selected for this prestigious award.

While Donahue was a Post 20 member for 22 years, he only became active in the organization six years ago. Somewhere along the way, the post had dissolved, but two very involved local legionnaires Chick Ciciotte and Gil Ormsby called all the members, gathering them to help bring the post back to life.

The post now has it’s own home in the former Evergreen building at 1 Columbus Drive. Under Donahue’s recent leadership, the membership is at 121 members and continues to grow.

Ciciotte nominated Donahue for legionnaire of the year, and said Donahue has done so much for the post, helping to start up youth programs and other community programs, and has been willing to drive across the state to help veterans and other posts, and made sure things got done when others have been ill.

“He’s even done the janitor work,” Ciciotte said, “and it’s all volunteer.”

Donahue will be honored during installation of the newly elected officers Sunday and then again as legionnaire of the year at the Maine American Legion convention next week.

Initially Donahue didn’t know anything about Post 20 or even where they met. There is sill many misconceptions within the community and among younger veterans about the American Legion.

It is a non-political organization and when it asks to go into schools, it’s not for military recruiting. Its members serve the community and also work to help veterans connect with services and benefits.

Working with youth programs has been one of Donahue’s favorite roles. He’s served as the Americanism Officer, working with the Boy Scouts on the flag retirement program, starting the only youth shooting course (using air rifles), and sponsoring baseball teams. The legion also offers Boys and Girls State, which allows youth to learn how the state Legislature works; and the Oratorical Contest where participants give a dissertation on the U.S. Constitution and can win thousands of dollars in scholarships if they make it to the national competition.

Donahue said there are many Post 20 members who work hard, and it’s the team effort that reflects well on him.

“I couldn’t do it all myself,” he said. “The programs are too important.”

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