Donald McFaul was born on September 20, 1957, in Long Beach, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy on June 27, 1975, and completed basic training at NTC San Diego, California, in August 1975. McFaul next attended Engineman training at NTC Great Lakes, Illinois, from September to November 1975, followed by service as an Engine Specialist at Naval Support Activity Treasure Island, California, from November 1975 to June 1977. Petty Officer McFaul attended Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training at NAB Coronado, California, from June 1977 to January 1978, followed by Basic Airborne Training in January and February 1978. His next assignment was with SEAL Team ONE at NAB Coronado from March to September 1978, and then with Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE at Subic Bay in the Philippines from October 1978 to April 1979. Petty Officer McFaul then returned to SEAL Team ONE at Coronado from April 1979 to October 1980, followed by a return to Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE at Subic Bay from October 1980 to March 1981. He then served back at SEAL Team ONE from March to October 1981, with Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE at Subic Bay from October 1981 to May 1982, and back with SEAL Team ONE from May 1982 until he left active duty and joined the Navy Reserve on January 20, 1984. Petty Officer McFaul returned to active duty on January 13, 1986, and then served with Naval Special Warfare Unit ONE at Subic Bay from February 1986 to July 1987. He attended the Defense Language Institute at Monterey, California, from July 1987 to February 1988, and then served with SEAL Team FOUR at NAB Little Creek, Virginia, from February 1988 until he was killed in action while deployed to Panama in support of Operation Just Cause on December 20, 1989. Chief Petty Officer McFaul was buried at Pajaro Valley Memorial Park in Watsonville, California. The guided missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG-74) was named in his honor.
His Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism while serving as Platoon Chief Petty Officer of Sea-Air-Land Team FOUR (SEAL-4), GOLF Platoon during Operation JUST CAUSE at Paitilla Airfield, Republic of Panama on 20 December 1989. Chief Petty Officer McFaul's platoon was an element of Naval Special Warfare Task Unit PAPA, whose crucial mission was to deny to General Noriega and his associates the use of Paitilla Airfield as an avenue of escape from Panama. After insertion from sea by rubber raiding craft, Golf Platoon was patrolling toward their objective, a hangar housing General Noriega's aircraft, when they were engaged by heavy small arms fire. Realizing that most of the first squad, 25 meters north of his position, had been wounded, he left the relative safety of his own position in order to assist the wounded lying helplessly exposed. Under heavy enemy fire and with total disregard for his personal safety, Chief Petty Officer McFaul moved forward into the kill zone and began carrying a seriously wounded platoon member to safety. As he was nearing the safety of his own force's perimeter, he was mortally wounded by enemy fire. Chief Petty Officer McFaul's heroic actions and courage under fire saved his teammate's life and were an inspiration for other acts of heroism as the assault force prevailed in this decisive battle. By his extraordinary bravery, personal sacrifice, and inspiring devotion to duty, Chief Petty Officer McFaul reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.