Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve
Town of South Windsor
Major (ret) Michael Donnelly, a Persian Gulf War fighter pilot awarded four Air Medals for completing 44 combat missions over Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at the age of 36. Unlike many other Gulf War veterans, Major Donnelly was active duty when he was diagnosed with the progressively fatal disease. As a result, he was granted permanent and total disability benefits, yet his willingness and ability to help others has not stopped.
Since his diagnosis, Major Donnelly has become a champion for other Persian Gulf War veterans who are suffering from ALS, cancer and many other illnesses. In 1998, Major Donnelly published his story under the title of Falcon’s Cry. More than just Major Donnelly’s wartime memoirs, the book tells the story of living with ALS and the fight by tens of thousands of Persian Gulf War veterans for acknowledgement of their war-related illnesses while serving their country. Confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, Major Donnelly continues to communicate, by using a special computer, and remains dedicated to helping those men and women with whom he served.
On December 10, 2001, Veterans' Affairs Secretary, Anthony Principi, made a startling announcement. He reported that a recently completed Veterans’ Affairs study revealed that Persian Gulf War veterans are more than twice as likely as other veterans to develop ALS. This announcement confirmed Major Donnelly's chief claim: that an epidemic of ALS is plaguing Persian Gulf War veterans. As a result of the VA study, Secretary Principi acknowledged Major Donnelly’s efforts in this cause and announced that the VA would grant full benefits to all Gulf War veterans diagnosed with ALS.