The Honor Is All His
After 60-year wait, vet
has Bronze Star on chest
by Sara Withee
HOPEDALE - Having fought for his country and survived one of the deadliest of battles,
William Wood returned home from World War II a hero, with his commander nominating
him for a prestigious Bronze Star. The then-21 year old Hopedale native never followed
up on the commander's nomination and the years turned into decades.
Sixty years later, the 81-year-old Wood finally gets to wear the medal for the first time
Monday, as he takes center stage in the hometown's Memorial Day festivities.
The Hopedale Board of Selectmen voted this week to designate the holiday William D.
Wood Day, and the veteran has also been named Honorary Grand Marshal of
Hopedale's Memorial Day parade.
"The whole thing is just amazing to me," said his nephew, Jim Wood. "I still haven't
gotten the whole story about what he did."
It was only recently the younger Wood even learned his uncle had been awarded the
Bronze Star, the U.S. Army's third highest medal.
The older Wood suspects the Bronze Star paperwork got lost in an Army building fire
years ago, letting him avoid a difficult subject and keep the extent of his service to
himself. "He gets very emotional about that time period," Jim Wood said.
The stage was set for disclosure a few years ago, when Wood became choked up
after seeing Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" and began discussing his service
with his nephew.
Then, his sister's funeral brought out longtime family members and friends who let
word slip that Wood had been put in for the Bronze Star.
"I didn't know that," his nephew said. "I don't know why it wasn't told."
But once told, Wood's nephew urged him to follow up on the paperwork. "I just said to
him, 'You deserve it. You should get it. You can apply for it,'" Jim Wood said.
Wood began the process more than a year ago and the Bronze Star, along with four
other medals and an honorable service pin, arrived five weeks ago.
"It's nice to get, but I don't consider myself a hero," Wood said. "The heroes are the
dead, the ones who got badly wounded."
While Wood said he never even suffered a nosebleed during his service, he saw
plenty of gunfire and lives lost. The 1942 Hopedale High School graduate - whose two
brothers also served - said he was in the Army from March 1943 to November 1945
He arrived in Normandy two weeks after D-Day and served in five European major
campaigns, including the Battle of the Bulge, where 19,000 Allied soldiers were killed
and 47,000 were wounded.
Wood's unit played a critical role in holding a major road intersection vital to Nazi
tanks for over two weeks during the 44-day conflict.
He recalls seeing a close friend killed just feet away from him and times when he
looked up and saw planes soaring across the sky.
Jim Wood said he wants to learn more about how his uncle earned the Bronze Star.
"I hope to get to that someday," he said. "You have bits and pieces. It's all very
interesting to me."
So much is still unknown about all the soldiers, Jim Wood said. "These guys went off
to war and they were gone for years," he said. "You didn't have the press coverage, the
news coverage, the movie coverage. If you had a letter every few weeks, that was nice."
Milford Daily News, May 27, 2005.
Bronze Star vet honored in Hopedale
By Danielle Williamson
HOPEDALE - William Wood doesn-t consider himself a hero.
The 500 people who honored him at the town's Memorial Day celebration, however,
would likely disagree.
A survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, one of the deadliest battles in World War II history,
Wood wore his Bronze Star for the first time yesterday. Nominated for the honor more
than 60 years ago, the 81-year-old only received the medal this year.
"I'm not a hero," the softspoken Wood said after a ceremony at Hopedale Village
Cemetery. "The ones who went through the war that didn't get back are the heroes."
Wood was honorary grand marshal of Hopedale's Memorial Day parade. Judge
Francis Larkin, the parade's coordinator, praised the veteran for his service during the
Battle of the Bulge before Wood's nephew, Jim Wood, pinned the Bronze Star on his
Wood served in the Army from March 1943 to November 1945. In December 1944,
during the Battle of the Bulge, his unit played a critical role in defending a major road
intersection against the Nazi advance.
Wood and two other men were the only members of their unit who survived, Larkin
noted. Wood's commander nominated him for the Bronze Star - a tidbit Wood told his
nephew only three years ago.
"This gentleman was so humble - that he just went back to work. There were no
ceremonies, and for 60 years the medal he so richly earned never arrived," Larkin said.
The family found out Wood had been nominated for the Bronze Star, when he choked
up after watching "Saving Private Ryan," and began talking about his military service.
Jim Wood urged his uncle to follow up on the paperwork, which the older Wood
suspects got lost years ago in an Army building fire. The medal arrived five weeks ago.
"This morning a great injustice is remedied," Larkin said, as the younger Wood pinned
the medal on his uncle.
Among Wood's admirers yesterday, was 11-year-old Erin Sutton, a fifth-grade student
at Hopedale Memorial School.
Sutton, who wore a sundress with a red, white and blue flag pattern, stepped up to the
microphone to read a "letter to a veteran."
The thoughtful youngster posed a couple of rhetorical questions, including, "How did
it feel to leave your family, and how did it feel to hurt someone you didn't even know
because they were your enemy?"
I know a lot of kids don't appreciate you, and some just don't understand," Sutton read,
adding that she, as well as others in Hopedale, cared. Milford Daily News, May 31,