WINCHESTER – Seven months ago, MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue was shot and grievously wounded on a Watertown street after an intense gun battle with the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
Today Donohue returned to his hometown to thank the men who rescued him that night, who included veterans who continue to inspire him as he recovers.
“I want to say thank you,’’ Donohue said as he stood outside on a plaza named for his veteran grandfather Ed O’Connell.
With songs, speeches and solemn ceremony, the town came out on Veterans Day to mark the sacrifices of men and women in the armed forces.
The Boston Firefighters Band played “God Bless America,’’ and the local firehouse hoisted a large US flag over Ladder 1. After a parade through the town, schoolchildren read speeches and sang. The local honor guard fired three rounds. And Donohue, a Navy veteran, eventually went to the lectern.
Donohue was born in this town, and his family has deep ties here. His brother, Ed, is a Marine veteran and police officer who came to rescue him the night he was shot. His grandmother, Barbara B. O’Connell, was one of the organizers of the Veterans Day tribute.
As he stood in a blue crisp uniform under a brisk fall sun, Donohue recounted being on the hunt for bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and facing them in a violent exchange of gunfire on a Watertown street.
“I was shot in the leg,’’ Donohue told the crowd. “With bullets flying around and explosions going off, other officers – many of whom are veterans, courageously rendered lifesaving CPR and first aid,’’ he said. “As my brother will boast, most of those guys are Marines. God bless them all.”
In the months after the shooting, as he recovered, Donohue said he was fortunate enough to thank the police officers, firefighters, physicians and nurses. But it was a visit with US Representative Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, that also touched his life.
The congresswoman visited Donohue on June 3, while he was between an intense therapy session at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The first thing he and his wife Kim noticed was that Duckworth had a slight limp. The next thing they noticed were her prosthetic legs, one of them emblazoned with the stars and stripes.
Duckworth told them about how she lost her legs after the Blackhawk helicopter she was piloting was hit by rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2004 and went down. She made her visit not to share her story, but to connect with Donohue and other bombing victims, he said.
“I asked her about her pain, and she let us know that it gets better. But it’s still there nine years later,’’ he said.