Menlo Park's Ernest Williams recently had several medals and ribbons delivered to him decades after his service during World War II.
One look in the eyes of Ernest Williams shows a lifetime of perseverance, honor and integrity.
Settled in his cushioned armchair comfortably, Williams on this day isn’t one for too many words. Actually, he barely notices others in the room.
He calmly scans the array of family photos on the opposite wall, as if reliving earlier times.
His quiet demeanor now only hides his true story.
A few weeks ago, Williams, 91, was paid a special visit by a veterans’ community liaison from the VITAS Innovative Hospice Care, who delivered two Bronze Star medals, along with other medals and ribbons, for his service in World War II. The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest individual military honor awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit or meritorious service in a combat zone.
Williams enlisted in the U.S. Army at 21. A look at his photo album shows pictures of his time in Manila, Philippines. He had driven General Douglas MacArthur in his vehicle during his time there.
However, Williams’ family emphasized how he had never stayed in one place for too long during the war.
Williams’ photo album details stays on several other islands in a span of four years as well. He fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima where he witnessed the raising of the American flag. He was involved with campaigns in the Solomon Islands and Australia to name a few.
After he was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant, Williams ended up in Kansas City, where he met his wife Virginia and eventually moved to Menlo Park to start a family.
Williams never kept in touch with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in charge of his service records. His constant transferring from place to place resulted in him losing his medals. Williams’ military records were relatively forgotten because his parents were not the best at safekeeping his belongings.
Understandably, Williams rarely delved into the specific hardships and terrors of war with his family, which is why his medals were never redelivered.
A short time ago, Williams’ daughter Angela, had contacted the VITAS Care program about his discharge papers, which included his information regarding his enlistment, duty assignments, training and medical records along with his awards and medals.
VITAS was able to retrieve his lost discharge information and found that Williams had several medals that the family had not known about.
John Forrett, the veterans community liaison at VITAS who personally delivered the medals, was able to connect with Williams due to their military backgrounds.
With his family around him, a misty-eyed Williams graciously accepted his awards.
Williams’ daughters, Angela and Vicki helped assemble a shadow box with his prestigious awards enshrined inside.
While the awards are a prominent symbol of his duty to his country, for Williams, family always comes first.
Whether it was working two jobs as a machinist and a yard worker or just taking his children out for a movie or picnic and helping them with their homework, Williams always put his heart and soul into providing for his family. Only recently did Williams decide to share certain accounts of his stay on the islands.
“There was this one story about how his time in the Philippines where he was a military policeman and he had to go out in the dumps with others,” said Vicki Williams. “Oftentimes they encountered Komodo dragons that would chase the soldiers off.”
Stories like these are relatively on the lighter side, compared to the tragedies of WWII.
“No one else should have to go through war and see the things I had to see,” said Williams.