Palau Native Marine Returns to Island Home

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Milton Donatus instructs Palau national law enforcement officers on the operations of the M9A1 9 mm service pistol in Irai, Palau, Sept. 16, 2014. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drew Tech

IRAI, Palau – Bedtime stories can have an impact on children’s imaginations. For many young people, hearing tales of fictitious characters like “Peter Pan” or “Jack and the Beanstalk” can create the desire to experience Peter’s or Jack’s extraordinary adventures.

For one boy from Ngaraard, Palau, bedtime stories were not about fighting pirates or giants. This boy was told stories of combat and the U.S. Marines at the Battle of Peleliu during World War II.

That boy was Milton Donatus, and the stories his grandmother told him as a child spawned a lifelong dream to become a U.S. Marine.

“Every time my grandmother would talk about war, the Marines came up,” said Donatus, the training chief with Combat Logistics Detachment 379, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force.

Idolized Marines

“The Marines were always talked about as the saviors and the best [warriors] ever, so growing up, I didn’t know about any other military,” he added. “I only knew about the Marines, and that I wanted to be one.”

Shortly after graduating from high school in 1995, Donatus moved to Guam to pursue his dream, and in May 2000, he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

His career has seen him rise to the rank of staff sergeant and has brought him aboard the USNS Sacagawea as part of exercise T-AKE 14-2, a maritime pre-positioned force, multinational theater security cooperation event that deploys from the Japanese island of Okinawa to conduct training exercises.

Teaching pistol marksmanship

Palau national law enforcement officers and Combat Logistics Detachment 379 Marines completed live-fire training with the M9A1 9 mm service pistol here Sept. 16. The training, led by Donatus, taught the Palauan law enforcement officers the fundamentals of combat marksmanship with the weapon, such as loading, clearing and firing procedures.

“The training went according to plan,” Donatus said. “The national police showed up eager to learn. They left with a good image of what the Marines stood for and a knowledge that they will carry on with them throughout their careers as police officers.”

For the law enforcement officers of Palau, the opportunity to train with the U.S. Marines and receive instruction from a native of their island nation was special, said Fave Ngiramengior of Koror, Palau.

Great opportunity

“It was a great opportunity to get to train with the U.S. Marines,” said Ngiramengior, a police officer with Palau’s patrol division. “The last time we were able to shoot was two years ago, so getting to learn from the Marines, and especially a local in the Marines, was very nice.”

Donatus’s positive effect on the Palauan police officers was evident, said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Barr from Woonsocket, Rhode Island.

“One thing I noticed during the training was how the police officers gravitated to him,” said Barr, the company gunnery sergeant for the detachment. “Whenever he was instructing them, they paid close attention and really took in what he said.”

Meaningful experience

The chance to come home and participate in this training was a very meaningful experience, Donatus said.

“It feels good, and it means a lot to me to come back in this situation,” he added. “I was not a wealthy kid growing up, so people kind of always looked at me thinking that I wouldn’t amount to anything. Being able to come back with a different life is just awesome, because it gives me a chance to show everyone who grew up where I did that there is hope.”

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