81-year-old Navy Cross recipient could do time for shooting protected birds


A Korean War veteran who earned the military’s second-highest honor in 1951 could face time behind bars for wounding a crane with a slingshot.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Donald Daigneault, an 81-year-old Marine Corps veteran from Port Orange, Fla., was charged in Florida State Court with killing or wounding a threatened species after the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fielded complaints that someone was shooting Florida sandhill cranes with a rifle. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

A slingshot (image from Wikipedia)

Daigneault, who spoke with Marine Corps Times briefly on Monday, said there was no gun involved–he was using a slingshot to fire marbles at the birds, who were pecking at his windows and scaring away songbirds. Whether he was using bullets or marbles, at least one of his projectiles connected, wounding a crane who later died, according to a commission reported cited by the News-Journal.

Florida sandhill cranes (Image from Wikipedia)

Since the incident, Daigneault said, he has had some success in keeping the cranes away.

“Luckily, they haven’t been coming around,” he said. “Somebody else has been feeding them.”

He is pleading not guilty to the charge and said he has an upcoming meeting with a public defender to discuss the case.

According to Daigneault’s Navy Cross medal citation in the MilitaryTimes.com Hall of Valor database, he received the prestigious award as a private first class during the Korean War for taking out seven hostile troops–killing four and wounding three more–with “deadly accuracy” with his automatic rifle, despite suffering from multiple shrapnel wounds. His actions stopped the enemy from advancing on Daigneault’s Marine squad, according to the citation, and saved the lives of his comrades.

Daigneault said he had little interest in talking about the medal or what he did to receive it.

“I don’t care to be publicized because it’s something that happened a long time ago,” he said.


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  1. Butch Bracknelll on

    Cue the righteous indignation!! He broke the law, and there’s no exception written in for those who served with distinction. His Navy Cross is irrelevant to compliance with state law. Besides, assuming he has no criminal history and he can show the bird’s death was an accident, the most he will get is community service/probation.

  2. I’m Disabled Vietnam Veteran with a few medals, nothing approaching the Navy Cross. I would NEVER use my service in a situation like this. And, Donald Daigneault didn’t either.

    I don’t know why the Press keeps bringing up A Veterans background for a negative story. You don’t see positive stories about Veterans and their backgrounds.

    Donald Daigneault is truly a Hero by anyone’s definition and should be honored. But that has nothing do do with subject of this story.

  3. These birds are dangerous, and a little territorial, nonetheless they are a protected species and shooting them is unacceptable. I would give them a wide birth, but when they’re in your yard, it’s a problem. Hopefully they stay away and there are no more interactions with this large bird….

  4. I have pigeons (flying rats) that try to roost under the eaves of my roof, when I bought the house they had crapped on these areas so bad, I had to powerwash and then repaint half the side of my house. I would not hesitate to zap a pigeon. Now these birds are federally protected. One thing I found that works on some of these foul fowl…is a hose with a power nozzle. Squirt them with some serious pressure a few times, it doesn’t hurt them..and they usually won’t come back.

  5. At 81, he should know better you would say, but they should check him to see if he still understands what he is doing. At that age, he may be thinking like a teenager again. He at least needs to be treated with respect. He killed a bird, not a human. I don’t like to see animals mistreated, but he is a hero and has suffered much for this country.

  6. The biggest problem is that people are feeding the sandhill cranes and they’re unafraid of people. Since they’re protected, you can’t even approach the cranes to shoo them away.

  7. One thing has nothing to do with the other. I can’t believe people would be so ignorant as to connect the two. Ok the guy is old, and a veteran. At one point that was acknowledged and was accredited for that but it has nothing to do with the situation at hand. It doesn’t mean he can just go and abuse the law. These are threatened animals and he should have respected that.

  8. Wait hold on, the birds were destroying his property, he does have the right to defend his property!! Check the law, he is not guilty of illegally shooting wildlife, plus the fact the Sandhill cranes are migratory birds and there is legal hunting seasons on them in other states.

  9. John Creager, if it’s legal to kill the birds in other states, then this man should move to one of those states. If he’s going to live in Florida, he should follow the laws of his state. Also, you definitely do not have the right to kill any animal that does something to his property. Could he kill them if they did their business on his lawn? Could he kill them if they were bald eagles pecking at his windows? No. If his windows were being “destroyed” (no evidence of that, btw), then he should call his insurance company, not kill the birds. The birds probably mistook their reflections in the window for a rival crane and were being territorial. Trust me, they didn’t mean anything personal about it.

  10. Oh dear. A lot of people here somehow believe that being awarded a piece of metal and cloth somehow exempts you from the law. You people are bleeping idiots.

    The birds are protected. Which to you “bird-brains” means that you can’t harm them, or else the law harms you. Get that through your numb skulls.

    John Creager and Uncle Sam: you are obviously ignorant of the law, so you should stop posting your nonsense.

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