Holsey Gillis

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Holsey Gillis was born in Georgia and was one of six brothers and two sisters in the family. His father had a farm and Holsey learned to work at an early age. Between climbing pecan trees to knock down the nuts to milking cows, Holsey kept busy. After graduating from high school, he was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps. At that time, there was a quota of accepting seven African Americans a day at Ft. Benning, GA. Holsey went with two other friends and was the final cut for that day. He did his Basic Training at Montfort Point, NC, which was very tough. For example, if one person made a misstep in marching, the group would stop in formation until the person ran to the river, crossed it and returned. All of this in the hot North Carolina sun. However, one accomplishment at the base was having these Marines set records for target shooting with their 150 mm guns.

After Basic Training, Holsey was sent overseas aboard a Landing Ship Tank (LST) through the Panama Canal with the 10th Depot Company. He still remembers the engineering feat of going through the locks to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. After almost two month of riding the rough waves, Holsey made it to Guadalcanal, which was secured by this time and then he was sent to New Caledonia. Holsey was in Guam during the Invasion of Saipan. Next, he was sent to the Invasion at Okinawa and, in a pouring rain he descended from the ship on ropes into very rough water to board a small boat to get to the beach. He stayed here until the end of the war and was sent back to Montfort Point. Hoping to be home for Christmas, Holsey missed out by a few days and was finally discharged at the age of 21.

After attending Morehouse College for a few semesters, Holsey decided to get back to what he enjoyed, working with his hands. He moved to Philadelphia, PA and worked in a tailor shop, a service station and ended up as a Firestone Tire Manager in Hyattsville, MD. In June 2012, Holsey was one of about 400 African American Marines throughout the country that received the Congressional Gold Medal from Congress in Washington, DC for their service during World War II.

We honor you, Holsey Gillis.

(#Repost @AFRH)

PFC Samuel Tom Holiday

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Holiday, who was born to a medicine woman in Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, was unsure of his exact birthday, but family members assigned him the date of June 2, 1924, based on the weather and season at the time.

Holiday was 19 when he went through Marine Corps boot camp in 1943. He joined a group of Native Americans who used their native language, which had complex grammar and was unfamiliar to the rest of the world, to develop a communication code for the U.S. military that enemies could not decipher.

Twenty-nine Navajos were recruited to launch the Code Talkers program, but there were more than 400 by the end of the war.

During the war, Holiday served with the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, joining operations in Saipan, Iwo Jima, Tinian, Marshall Island and other parts of the Pacific Theater.

An exploded mortar injured one of his ears, which he said left him with some hearing loss. He would later tell his family that, despite that, he always felt safe during battle, protected by a pouch worn around his neck that held sacred stones and yellow corn pollen.

Holiday said in a recent interview that on two occasions he was mistaken for a Japanese solider by his fellow Americans, with some of the men who knew him jumping in to defend him. That, however, did not cause his dedication to the cause to waver, he said.

After the war, Holiday returned to the Navajo Reservation, working as a police officer and ranger before starting his own heavy equipment company.

He married Lupita Mae Isaac in 1954, and they had seven daughters and one son.

For decades, Holiday’s participation with the Code Talkers was a secret. The operation wasn’t declassified until 1968, and Holiday didn’t share with family members much about the details until the 1980s.

In 1982, Holiday and the rest of the Code Talkers were given a Certificate of Recognition by then-President Ronald Reagan. Twelve years later, President Bill Clinton awarded Congressional Gold Medals to the 29 original Code Talkers.

Holiday and the others received Congressional Silver Medals, which Holiday sometimes wore along with his others, including a Purple Heart.

Holiday became an advocate for sharing the Code Talker history, telling his own personal story and educating others about the role Navajos played in the war.

At veterans events, he would wear his medals and don other symbols of his background: turquoise jewelry for the Diné, or Navajo; a red Marine Corps cap; and earth-colored clothing picked to celebrate Navajo heritage.

He also shared his experiences in Under the Eagle: Samuel Holiday, Navajo Code Talker, a book he co-wrote with Robert S. McPherson. It was published in 2013 by the University of Oklahoma Press.

Holiday would visit schools in the St. George area to tell them about the war and his experiences. When he visited Riverside Elementary School last year, he held the children’s attention as he recounted a particularly fearsome battle. The fifth-graders’ nervousness as he told them how he ducked into a foxhole to avoid the spray of bullets changed to laughter as the tale ended with Holiday’s comrade yelling, “I’m hit!” — only to then see that a frog had jumped on his back.

“This doesn’t happen very often where you get to experience and see and hear the person who was actually there instead of just talking about it,” teacher Mala Shakespear said at the time.

We honor you, Samuel Tom Holiday.

(#Repost @https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/06/12/navajo-code-talker-samuel-holiday-dies/693943002/)

PFC Howard P Perry


Breaking a tradition of 167 years, the U.S. Marine Corps started enlisting African Americans in 1942.

The first man to enlist was Howard P. Perry. With 119 other recruits, he began the grueling process of becoming a Marine at Montford Point near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The trainees were not allowed to enter the main base without a white escort.
After completing boot camp they were shipped to combat zones, in all-Black units.

We honor you, Howard Perry.

(#Repost @Dod African-American History presentation)

Larry Gail Williamson

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Larry G. Williamson was February 9, 1947, in Lincoln County, West Virginia, the only son of four children born to John B. and Georgia Napier Williamson.

During high school at Harts, Larry was the only boy in his class to become a member of the National Honor Society. He was on the varsity basketball team and served on the school newspaper and as secretary treasurer of his senior class. After graduation in 1964 he attended Marshall University’s Logan branch for two years.

On September 9, 1967, at the age of 20, Larry married Wanda Brumfield and moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he became manager of car parts and tires at a Firestone Automotive Center.

In January 1969, Larry was drafted from West Virginia. While on a bus taking him for Army training, he was among the draftees separated and reassigned to the Marines. He received basic training at Camp Pendleton, California, and after a brief visit home was ordered to Vietnam and assigned to the 5th Marine Division. He soon received a promotion to Lance Corporal.

In Vietnam, Larry was assigned as a squad leader in the First Platoon of Company G. On March 11, 1970, the squad was acting as a blocking force and was located approximately 2 miles northeast of An Hoa Combat Base in Quang Nam Province. Lance Corporal Larry G. Williamson was killed when a well concealed explosive device detonated. A squad corpsman rushed to his aid but death had been instantaneous. According to First Lieutenant W. T. Collins, tribute was paid to Larry during a memorial service held on March 13.

The body of Lance Corporal Larry G. Williamson was returned to his hometown and was interred in the Little Harts Cemetery.

We honor you, Larry Williamson.

(#Repost @wvculture.org)

LtGen Frances C. Wilson

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Wilson was born in Nassau County, in Long Island, New York to Frances and John Wilson, a United States Air Force officer.

Wilson grew up in Arlington County, Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in social sciences from Michigan State University. Wilson later earned Master degrees in education from Pepperdine University, psychology from the University of Northern Colorado, business management from Salve Regina College, National Security and Strategic Studies from Naval War College, and a Doctor of Education from The University of Southern California.

She also completed the U.S. Army Basic Airborne Course, Armed Forces Staff College’s Joint and Combined Staff Officer School, National Defense University’s CAPSTONE and PINNACLE courses, Naval Postgraduate School’s Revolution in Business Practices, and Harvard University’s JFK School of Government’s Senior Executive Course in National and International Security.

Wilson’s sister, Mary O’Donnell is a retired U.S. Coast Guard rear admiral, who in 2000 became the first woman to become a reserve rear admiral in the Coast Guard. At the time of O’Donnell’s retirement in 2004, Wilson and her sister were the highest ranking sisters in the U.S. Military.

Commissioned a second lieutenant in November 1972, she was the Honor Graduate and recipient of the Leadership Award from the United States Marine Corps Women Officer Basic School.

As a company grade officer, Wilson served as an Air Traffic Control Officer at Yuma and Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Stations and as an Instructor at Marine Corps Development and Education Center’s Instructional Management School. Following graduation from Amphibious Warfare School in 1980, she served as Staff Secretary, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force.

As a field grade officer she was a Company Officer, Brigade of Midshipmen, and an Assistant Professor in the Professional Development Department at the United States Naval Academy. After graduating with the 1985 class of the College of Naval Command and Staff, Naval War College, she reported to the Manpower Plans, Manpower and Reserve Affairs Department, Headquarters Marine Corps as a manpower management analyst. She then served as Special Assistant for General and Flag Officer Matters, Joint Staff, and as Executive Assistant to the Vice Director, Joint Staff.

Wilson commanded the Fourth Recruit Training Battalion at Parris Island Recruit Depot from 1988 to 1990. She then participated in a Federal Executive Fellowship with the Brookings Institution before reporting to the Marine Forces Pacific staff as Requirements and Programs Officer. In July 1993, she assumed command of Camp H. M. Smith and the Headquarters and Services Battalion, Marine Forces Pacific. Returning to Washington, D.C., in 1995, she participated on Roles and Missions Coordination Group, Requirements and Plans, Headquarters Marine Corps before being assigned as Secretary, Joint Staff.

Wilson commanded Marine Corps Base Quantico and the 3rd Force Service Support Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. She then directed Manpower Management Division, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps and was the Marine Corps representative to the Secretary of Defense’s Reserve Force Policy Board.

From 2003 to 2006, she served as Commandant of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University. In 2006, she was appointed president of the National Defense University. On July 14, 2006 Wilson was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed her post as the 12th president of the university, succeeding U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael M. Dunn. In March 2009, she was awarded the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony presided by French Defense Minister Hervé Morin at the French Embassy in Washington, DC.

We honor you, Frances Wilson.

(#Repost @Military Wiki)

Sgt John “Jack” Ryland Thurman


Thurman joined the Fifth Marine division, 27th Regiment, and was a private first class with the Marine Corps when he landed with the first waves on Feb. 19 at Iwo Jima. He left the Marine Corps as a sergeant.

He and his squad disembarked from a ship offshore in rolling amtracs, or amphibious tractors, that could float in water and drive on land.

“We had no idea what we were going to walk into,” Thurman said. The amtracs — full of 15-20 men apiece — slid around a battleship toward shore “when all hell broke loose,” Thurman said.

“We were about 300 yards from the shore. The idea was to go around the ship, meet at the front and turn and head in. It was unbelievable what took place,” Thurman said.

Japanese from land, who had a good vantage point from shore and the top of Mount Suribachi, started firing cannons and other weaponry at the men.

“The Amtrac to my left was hit, the Amtrac to my right was hit,” Thurman said. “The Amtrac to my right was blown completely out of the water. … The Amtrac went down so fast it left a whirlpool in the water.”

The section of beach they were taking was Red Beach One, which he said was ironic since the water was already red with blood.

“All this happened before we could get onto the beach,” Thurman said. He didn’t realize he himself was bleeding from a scrape until his cheek started sticking to the barrel.

When his Amtrac reached the shore, the men started running for cover. Thurman remembers getting hit in the hip, which knocked him off his feet. The bullet had gone through his canteen, which he believes slowed the bullet down, and didn’t penetrate his skin, although he had a black and blue hip for several days.

“We had to take Iwo Jima because our B-29s that were flying from Saipan to Japan had to go up in elevation over Iwo, then they would drop low to Japan,” Thurman said. “Consequently, they burned a lot of fuel. Between Japan and Iwo, there were many B-29s that crashed in the water.”

The battle lasted until March 26, when the United States successfully took over Iwo Jima.

Thurman was a good friend of Ira Hayes, who later became well-known as one of the men photographed in the iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal, “Raising the flag on Iwo Jima.”

Thurman did his duty by scouting out broken-down Japanese airplanes for snipers and invading their bunkers to roust out the enemy.

After the war, Thurman got married in 1951 and had four children. They settled in Boulder, where he was an architect and helped build many buildings in the area, including the retirement facility where he would eventually live.

We honor you, Jack Thurman.

(Excerpt taken from: Report-Herald Neighbors)