Grandsons give flight to Air Force veteran’s dream

by Town Reminder

Veteran Carl Williams, 93, of South Hadley, displays a shadow box created by his grandsons containing long-lost medals he earned for his service in World War II, his discharge papers and the American flag.

Track down, present long-lost military medals to grandfather

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Every military veteran deserves to have the medals they’ve earned. And 72 years after serving in World War II, 93-year-old Army Air Corp Veteran Carl Williams of South Hadley, has received his.
It wasn’t Williams who tracked down the medals, but his three grandchildren who, despite serving in different branches of the military, cite the same reason for enlisting: Williams.
On Sunday, July 29, the trio presented a shadow box of his medals, the American flag and Williams’ discharge papers to their grandfather at his home in South Hadley while dressed in their full military uniforms in front of their entire family.
The presentation was a surprise for both Williams and his wife, Helen, who proudly pointed out three military men walking up their street. It wasn’t until the men – Senior Airman Stephen Williams of Chicopee (Air Force), Lance Corporal Jaime Williams of Belchertown (Marines) and Sgt. Derrick Gardner of Nashua, N.H. (Army National Guard) – made their way up the Williams’ driveway did Helen realize just who they were. And it wasn’t until his grandsons told him did Williams realize those specific medals inside the shadow box belonged to their rightful owner – him.
Stunned into silence, Williams sat, staring at what he earned 72 years ago, the image of himself at 93 reflecting back in the glass. Overcome with emotion, Williams’ thanked his grandsons, tears welling up in his eyes.
His daughters and the mothers of the trio – Cindy Williams of Chicopee, Audrey LePage of Belchertown and Ingrid Williams of Groton – whispered their father was visibly very moved by the presentation. They had never before seen him cry.
“I’m really flabbergasted. This is something I never dreamed of. It feels great, really good,” said Williams of having the medals he earned in his hands. “It brings back a lot of memories.”
For his service in the Army Air Corp between 1940 and 1945, Williams received a Bronze Star medal, an Army Good Conduct medal, an American Defense medal, an American Theater medal, a Middle-African-Eastern-European-Campaign medal and a World War II Victory medal. Williams was awarded with a unit citation as well. All of these accolades were delicately displayed inside the shadow box, along with patches symbolizing Williams’ rank and participation in the Eighth Air Force during World War II.
Originally, Williams’ parents didn’t know he had joined the service in 1940. It wasn’t until he arrived home one day in his uniform did they find out, said Helen.
In high school, Williams intended to enlist in the Navy. But, he said, “I liked the Air Force,” specifically working on the “different air crafts.”
Reflecting back on the years he served, Williams said he had a “good” deployment. “I can’t complain about it. I never had any problems and got along well,” he said. But, “I guess the greatest moment was coming home.”
Astonished by the hard work his grandsons devoted to recovering his medals as well as making their own sacrifices for their country by enlisting, Williams continually professed how proud he was of them. “They’re tops,” he said.
Stephen Williams was the mastermind behind the moving presentation. He first requested a copy of his grandfather’s Department of Defense Form 214, and using that information, was able to track down Williams’ medals, awards and decorations. The culmination of months of hard work, coupled with coordinating the schedules of his cousins and family, was worth it for Stephen. “I just want to make him happy and let him have what he deserves,” said Stephen of his gift to his grandfather. “It means a lot. He deserves it.”
Gardner agreed. “I think it’s great,” he said. “A great honor.”