Donald Charles May, Jr. – Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release


The Department of Defense also announced today it has changed the status of the following Marine casualties from missing in action to killed in action. They are:

  • Staff Sergeant Donald C. May, Jr., 31, of Richmond, Virginia
  • Lance Corpora. Patrick T. O'Day, 20, of Sonoma, California
  • Private First Class Francisco A. MartinezFlores, 21, of Los Angeles, California

These Marines were assigned to the 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California. They were killed while their unit was conducting convoy operations in the vicinity of the Euphrates River on March 25, 2003. Their remains were recovered on March 28, 2003.

Donald C. May, Jr.
Rank/Branch: Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
Unit: 1st Marine Division
Age: 31
Home City of Record: Richmond, Virginia
Date of Loss: March 25, 2003
Country of Loss: Iraq
Status: MIA/Iraq — Declared dead May 31, 2003- remains recovered
Category: Acft/Vehicle/Ground: Tank
Personnel in Incident: Marine Staff Sergeant Donald C. May, Jr., 31, Richmond, Virginia, Marine Lance Corporal Patrick T. O'Day, 20, Sonoma, California, Marine Private First Class Francisco A. MartinezFlores, 21, Los Angeles, California

REMARKS: Tank had apparently plunged off a bridge as it was crossing the Euphrates River. It was later found upside down and under water.

March 31, 2003

Missing Twentynine Palms marines confirmed dead

The Pentagon confirms that the three missing marines from the Twentynine Palms Base are dead.

The Pentagon says they were conducting convoy operations near the Euphrates River when they disappeared.

Last night after midnight the three pulled from the river were 20 year old Lance Corporal Patrick O'Day from Sonoma, and 21 year old Private First Class Francisco Martinez Flores from Los Angeles. The third marine is 31 year old Staff Sergeant Donald May from Richmond, Virginia. All three were based at Twentynine Palms.

31 March 2003:

Donald C. May Jr. always wanted to be a Marine.

His mother, Brenda R. May, of Chesterfield County, was a Marine. His father, Donald C. May Sr., was awarded a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and the Navy Cross for his service as a Marine in Vietnam.

Following in their footsteps, the son enlisted in 1990, right after graduating from Chesterfield's Meadowbrook High School.

The next year, Mrs. May lost her husband when he was killed in a boating accident while fishing in Washington state.

Now she fears she has lost her son and only child. The 31-year-old Marine staff sergeant is missing in Iraq, she said last night.

Brenda May said she was told Friday night that her son disappeared last week during a sandstorm that swept over Iraq as U.S. forces advanced toward Baghdad.

“The military came to my house and told me,” she said.

“It was at a bridge crossing. They found their sea bags floating in the river,” Brenda May said. “Navy divers went down, and they found the tank upside down on the bottom.”

She said her son's tank has not been recovered.

“I feel sure my son is in that tank,” she said.

Brenda May met her husband in 1969 at the U.S. Marine Base at Quantico, after he returned from Vietnam, she said.

“He was a tank commander, too,” she said.

Her son was assigned to the 1st Marine Division's 1st Tank Battalion. He was based in Twentynine Palms, Calif., where he lived with his wife, Deborah, and their two children, Mariah, 7, and Jack, 2. Deborah May is expecting the couple's third child later this spring.

“It's really hard to distinguish between being a former Marine and a mom,” Brenda May said last night.

April 1, 2003:

Brenda May knew in her heart that her 31-year-old son had died serving his country.

The 12:30 a.m. knock on the door from military officials just confirmed it.

Donald C. May Jr., a Marine Staff Sergeant, was gone. His body had been found inside his tank, flipped upside-down underwater in the Euphrates River in Iraq.

“They came to the house and told me,” she said, crying.

Her son, a graduate of Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield County, was assigned to the 1st Marine Division's 1st Tank Battalion. He is believed to be the first Virginian to die in the war.

Brenda May said military officials told her Friday night that her son had disappeared during a sandstorm that swept over Iraq as U.S. forces advanced toward Baghdad.

“He did not have to wear a uniform to be a hero,” his mother said yesterday. “He was always a hero.”

“I knew it then,” she said. “I had that feeling.”

Marine Staff Sergeant Donald C. May Jr. followed his parents into the military, joining the Marines the year his father, a former tank commander, died in a fishing accident. “He was a clean-cut American boy,” said his mother, Brenda Reese May. “When he decided to go into the military, I was proud. Always scared, but proud.”



May, 31, from Richmond, Virginia, died March 25 when his tank fell off a bridge into the Euphrates River. May took an interest in the military at an early age. His parents had both served in the Marines, and May became a Naval Sea Cadet at age 12 and, later, a police Explorer. After high school, he joined the military police and guarded Iraqi prisoners during the 1991 Gulf War. He left the service for two years, then rejoined as a tank commander “just like his dad,” his mother said. His wife Deborah is expecting their second child.

Donald Charles May, Jr., Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, Killed 25 March 2003.  Richmond, Virginia. Buried in Arlington National Cemetery, April 2008.



Mariah May, wearing her Father's boots which were sent home from Iraq – Jack and Will May.
Photos Courtesy of Deborah May, Proud Wife Of Donald Charles May, Jr., April 2008


Deborah May Visits The Gravesite of Her Husband, Donald C. May, Jr.
At Arlington National Cemetery on 24 May 2009


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 10/23/1971
  • DATE OF DEATH: 03/25/2003





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