October 5, 2022
The fighting associated with the second phase of North Vietnam’s brutal Tet offensive in May 1968, wasn’t expected to be intense at Dong Ha, where Dorchester resident Donald Vincent Baker, a Seabee attached to the Third Marine Division, was stationed.
But on May 14, the North Vietnamese targeted Baker’s location, and he was wounding both by shrapnel and by the effects of a blast that ignited an nearby “ammo dump.” The double hit critically injured the Sydney Street resident, leaving him fighting for his life with a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed for the rest of his life.
Last Saturday morning, Baker, who passed away in 2014 at age 82, was memorialized by friends, family members, including his nephew, City Councillor Frank Baker, and by Mayor Michelle Wu. With the USS Constitution color guard in attendance and scores in attendance, the corner where Sydney and Harborview streets meet was officially named Donald Vincent Baker Square.
“We’re not here to say Uncle Don was a hero in battle, or a perfect person,” said his nephew Frank. “If Uncle Don were 30 seconds earlier or later, or two feet farther away, he would be listed as deceased on the monument over at Morrissey Boulevard or in DC.
“It’s important to recognize him here, across from the home he grew up in at 151 Sydney St. They didn’t expect him to live…He could only move his eyelashes at first.”
Wu spoke as well, noting that as the city rapidly changes, it’s important to remember the folks like Donny Baker who came before and served their country. She said he should be remembered for his military service and his commitment to Dorchester.
Don Baker’s son, David, showed a scrapbook detailing his father’s service in Vietnam, for which he earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, including the letters sent to his mother, Dorothy Baker, about his injuries.
“He sustained shrapnel wounds of the back, arms face and legs and transection of spinal cord during enemy artillery attack,” read the first letter sent to the family on May 17. “His prognosis is poor.”
David said his father spent several weeks on a hospital ship off of Japan and then more time in naval hospitals on the West Coast and in Chelsea.
“I was only 9 when it happened,” said David Baker. “I remember them showing up at the house for my mother. She was in tears, and we didn’t know what was going on. It didn’t get much better after that.”
The ceremony was punctuated by a resolution read by Robert Santiago, the city’s veterans commissioner, proclaiming Oct. 1, 2022, as Donald Vincent Baker Day in the City of Boston.
An employee of the city’s water department, and past commander of the Robert F. Ryan VFW Post #7604, Donny also was a life member of the Lt. Willis N. Penny American Legion Post #399, and member of the D.A.V. and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Councilor Frank Baker talks about his memories of his uncle, Donny Baker, before the official unveiling of the memorial sign. Mayor Michelle Wu looks on and spoke at the ceremony.
Donny Baker shown during his service in Vietnam.
The old days in front of 151 Sydney St.
The sign proclaiming Donald Vincent Baker Square.
Councilor Erin Murphy, Councilor Frank Baker, David Baker, Douglas Baker, Mayor Michelle Wu, and Veterans Commissioner Robert Santiago.
Family and friends of Donny Baker gathered under the new memorial square sign at the corner of Sydney and Harborview Streets on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Members of the Baker family posed in front of 151 Sydney St. where Donny Baker lived and grew up.