RACINE — At 91 years old, a Racine man received a prestigious award from the Department of Defense. This special award has only been given out to 16 Wisconsinites in the past 50 years.
Monday morning, Colonel Donald Ford was wheeled out from his rehab room to a celebration outside at Ascension All Saints Hospital.
Ford would soon find out he was going to receive a lifetime achievement award for dedicating decades of his life to serving in the U.S Army and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
ESGR is a Department of Defense Program that promotes cooperation and understanding between employers and their citizen soldiers.
Wisconsin Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Chairman Michael Williams said out of hundreds of volunteers, only a few people are selected.
He said this special award is given to an individual who has been a member for more than 20 years and meets other qualifications.
"Consistent service to the organization, showing leadership, patriotism, participation and numerous activities and events," Williams stated.
Ford graduated from a military school in California, got married to Rita Nobles and had four children, including his son Micheal.
Michael was at the surprise celebration with a huge smile on his face. "I'm so proud of him," he said.
Ford continued on in the Army Reserve. Memories of his service still come back.
"They come by the month, sometimes by the week, sometimes by the day," he recollected.
Ford told us he wasn't expecting any of this, but he's grateful.
"If you looked up 'pay it forward' in the dictionary, I would hope you'd see Don's name," Williams said.