Don MacPhail was born in 1948 in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 2, 1968, and completed basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in July 1968. After advanced training and airborne school, he was assigned as a radio operator with Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in South Vietnam from December 1968 until he was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War in South Vietnam on February 8, 1969. After spending 1,498 days in captivity, Sgt MacPhail was released during Operation Homecoming on March 16, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and then left active duty and joined the Army Reserve on December 14, 1973. Sgt MacPhail returned to active duty on January 14, 1975, and after completing Ranger school and Special Forces training, he was assigned to Company C, 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, from November 1975 until he received an honorable discharge from the Army on December 15, 1977.
His 2nd Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:
Sergeant Don A. MacPhail distinguished himself by meritorious service while held Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia during the period 8 February 1969 to 16 March 1973. His ceaseless efforts to conduct himself strictly in accord with the Code of Conduct and policies of the prisoner organization in the difficult conditions of a communist prison clearly demonstrated his loyalty, love of country and professionalism. By his unselfish dedication to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Army.