By LIBBY CLUETT
Fort Wolters Historical Park will come alive Saturday morning as the Fort Wolters Gate Committee, veterans, the community and dignitaries offer a public dedication of the new Medal of Honor Memorial.
The ceremony takes place north of the entrance of Fort Wolters Industrial Park at the “Y” in the road. Organizers suggest that anyone planning to attend might want to come early, since parking is limited and this event gets rumbling prior to 10 a.m. with a ride-by by the American Legion Riders and others riding around the park at about 9:50 a.m.
In case of rain, the ceremony will take place in the City of Mineral Wells Activity Center, located at 735 Hood Road, also in Fort Wolters Industrial Park.
The dedication is expected to last about 45 minutes. At 10 a.m., there will be a ribbon cutting for the new memorial honoring 14 Medal of Honor recipients who trained in Mineral Wells – either at Camp Wolters during World War II, or at Fort Wolters during the Vietnam War. See below, the list of names and dates they served locally.
Also on Saturday's dedication itinerary will be an honor guard and flag salute by North Texas Veterans Association and music performed by the Mineral Wells High School Choir, which will precede speaker comments.
U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway and State Rep. Jim Keffer will offer some remarks. Following the legislators are Bill Knight, brother of Garner native and WWII Medal of Honor awardee Jack Knight, and Lt. Col. Lee Evans, a MWHS graduate and officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces. Evans will also present a flag display.
With assistance from the Boy Scouts and Civil Air Patrol, Wayne Sanderson will call the roll for each of the Medal of Honor recipients.
“This is a memorial that has nation-wide significance, because these 14 people were from all parts of the country and were trained at Camp Wolters or Fort Wolters,” said Fort Wolters Gate Committee Secretary Mary Creighton.
“These people have made contributions to our country. Some are still alive today,” she said, citing retired Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, who received a Medal of Honor as a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War.
Fourteen individuals will be honored Saturday. They all passed through the gates of Camp Wolters or Fort Wolters, serving in the U.S. military.
Some died in combat and others lived, but all were awarded the military's highest honor for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
They are as follows:
Camp Wolters Medal of Honor recipients, beginning with the date they served in Mineral Wells, are:
• 1940 – 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight, of Garner, for meritorious valor on Feb. 2, 1945, in Loikang, Burma.
• 1941 – 1st Lt. Vernon Baker, for extraordinary heroism on April 5-6, 1945, in Viareggio, Italy.
• 1941 – Staff Sgt. Edward A. Carter, for extraordinary heroism on March 23, 1945, in Speyer, Germany.
• 1942 – 2nd Lt. Audie L. Murphy, for conspicuous gallantry on Jan. 26, 1945, in Holtzwihr, France.
• 1942-43 – 1st Lt. Charles L. Thomas, for extraordinary heroism on Dec. 14, 1944, in Climbach, France.
• 1942 – 1st Lt. Eli L. Whiteley, for conspicuous gallantry on Dec. 27, 1944, in Sigolsheim, France.
Fort Wolters Medal of Honor recipients, beginning with the date they served in Mineral Wells, are:
• 1962-63 – Maj. William E. Adams, for conspicuous gallantry on May 25, 1971, in Kontum Province, Republic of Vietnam.
• 1963 – Maj. Patrick H. “Pat” Brady, for conspicuous gallantry on Jan. 6, 1968, in Chu Lai, RVN.
• 1966-67, '68-69 – Chief Warrant Officer Frederick E. Ferguson, for conspicuous gallantry on Jan. 31, 1968, in Hue, RVN.
• 1967-68 – Capt. Ed “Too Tall” Freeman, for conspicuous gallantry on Nov. 14, 1965, in Ia Drang Valley, RVN.
• 1965-66 – Staff Sgt. Joe R. Hooper, for conspicuous gallantry on Feb. 21, 1968, near Hue, RVN.
• 1964 – CWO Michael J. Novosel, for conspicuous gallantry on Oct. 2, 1969, in Kien Tuong Province, RVN.
• 1970 – Capt. James M. Sprayberry, for conspicuous gallantry on April 25, 1968, RVN.
• 1965-66, '68-69 – Capt. Jon E. Swanson, for conspicuous gallantry on Feb. 26, 1971, in the Kingdom of Cambodia, during the Vietnam War.
Creighton encourages the public to come to Saturday’s event. For those who can’t come Saturday, she said, “The memorial will be open for public viewing at all times and we encourage people to bring their families out to visit.”
The Fort Wolters Gate Committee oversaw this project as well as three others: the gateway; a smaller Medal of Honor memorial at Mineral Wells High School, where Camp Wolters originated; and the committee secured the first city historical marker for the rock wall entrance to Camp Wolters. The rock wall was built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who stayed at the camp.
The gate committee is comprised of community leaders and includes officers President Ronny Collins, Treasurer Jim Messinger and Creighton as secretary.
Creighton said two people have worked hard on the park and memorial and “haven’t received much recognition.”
They are B.J. Ashley Sr. and David Kessler, who she said have helped place plaques on the obelisks and helped in other ways with the design of the park. She added that architect and Mineral Wells resident Tim Hopkins designed the memorial.
“It’s wonderful getting local talent to make this project go well,” said Creighton.
“We have to thank Dr. Collins, because it was his idea to restore the gate to Fort Wolters when he first came to Mineral Wells,” she added.
In addition to the ceremony, a Mobile Vet Center, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be parked near Fort Wolters Historical Park Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. Staff will offer information about the Vet Centers, including the free services they provide to veterans and the populations they serve, as well as information about related benefits for veterans.