Living History

Donald Patton receiving the Ultimate Patriot Award
Donald Patton receives honors for his work with the World War II History Roundtable.
Donald Patton receiving the Ultimate Patriot Award

On November 17, 2022, Edina’s Donald ‘Don’ Patton was awarded the Ultimate Patriot Award in FOX Nation’s fourth annual Patriot Awards ceremony. According to a press release, the award celebrated “his service and dedication to preserving the history of the men and women who served in World War II,” through his WWII History Roundtable Program.

“I was really excited about receiving [the call],” Patton says. “The thing that we have been so focused on is running good programs, attracting a reputation of having world-class historians come in to speak.”

Donald Patton giving his acceptance speech.Donald Patton giving his acceptance speech.

We first spoke with Patton about his WWII History Roundtable program in November 2019 when the group was celebrating its 33rd anniversary. Since its inception, the roundtable’s mission has been trifold: preserving the history of WWII through lectures by historians, inviting veterans to share their firsthand accounts and offering travel opportunities for members to experience historic sites themselves.

“I think the roundtable has evolved since we started in 1987,” Patton says. “In the first probably dozen years, we focused primarily on oral histories, finding local people [who] had significant involvement. And there were so many of them around.” He notes that today, finding WWII veterans can be difficult, with many who are still living being in their 90s or over 100. “The program we did a couple of months ago, the fellow was 100 and a half. By now he's almost 101,” Patton says.

But although it’s harder to find veterans to share their experiences, the roundtable format itself continues to grow. “I'm actually communicating with, I think it's with 16 roundtables around the country and introducing them to speakers and just giving them ideas,” Patton says.

During Patton’s acceptance speech, he sent out a plea to the audience. “I’m encouraging you to look into your family, to look into the history of your family that contributed to World War II, and don’t forget Korea, don’t forget Vietnam and these patriots that have fought recently. We can’t forget our veterans.” Patton says he encourages people to ask about their family member’s experiences as a record to pass down to future generations.

The WWII History Roundtable is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization. To find out how you can become involved, visit mn-ww2roundtable.org.