USMA Class of 1950, Second Lieutenant Coates was a member of the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. He was Killed in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 28, 1950. For his leadership and valor, Second Lieutenant Coates was awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Statistics and memories combine to paint a portrait of a young man who gave his full measure of devotion to his country. The dry statistics can give us no comfort, but the memories make Willard live for those who loved him.
His bravery doesn’t shine in heroic deeds, but in a four-year old not whimpering when his arm had to be rebroken after a mishap in setting.
The desire to wear his country’s uniform was Willard’s dream from early childhood. As a young boy, Will dressed in his father’s old uniform and walked sentry duty before the front door. He challenged all comers with comic reactions from civilian guests.
His background was two generations of Army officers, yet his proudest possession was his good conduct medal, because he, of all his family, had earned the right to wear it.
Will had a deep love of family. His greatest wish the last few years was for a family reunion. There is great comfort in remembering that his wish was fulfilled the summer before his death.
His love of argument was a source of amusement and exasperation. The topic or the side did not matter, just the opportunity to argue. His West Point roommate learned to recognize the symptoms and to prepare to retreat quickly.
His joy in living and curiosity for everything were wonderful gifts. In less than twenty-five years, Willard found and loved laughter, small boy secret joys, and realization of his West Point goal. The last months of his life were the fullest. His graduation, his marriage, and the reunion at home were the memories he took with him overseas.
Following his duty and beliefs Willard met his destiny on a Korean hillside. His legacy is a small daughter born after his death. His mark on history may be minute, but for us who knew and loved him, Willard has left memories and a part of himself to soften the pain of loss.
A portrait of a boy, a man, son, and brother forever young and forever beloved.
We honor you, Willard Coates.