Ted Williams fondly recalled his older brother Robert, eight years his senior, and riding on the handlebars of Robert’s green bicycle.
“I loved him very much but I was jealous of the things he got to do,” said 89-year-old Ted to a crowd of a few dozen friends, family and military members gathered at Bozeman’s American Legion on Friday afternoon.
Just prior to speaking, Ted was presented with a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other accolades, in honor of his brother Robert’s service during World War II.
Seventy-four years later, Robert was honored for his service to the nation.
“Thank you so much for being here,” Ted told the crowd. “God bless America.”
In addition to the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, Robert Williams was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Prisoner of War Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, the Philippine Republic Presidential Unit Citation and the Philippine Defense Ribbon.
Robert enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1939. He was trained in mechanics and assigned to the 7th Materials Squadron, later attached to the 19th Bombardment Group and shipped out to the Philippines shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
Robert became an infantryman and fought in the Battle of Bataan. His unit was the last American unit known to be fighting organized resistance in Bataan.
It was shortly after Christmas of 1941 that Robert’s family received a cable from him that simply read “I’m OK and well. Merry Christmas. Love.”
That was the last time they heard any word from Robert.
In 1942, Robert was listed as missing in action. Three years later, his family was notified of his death and in 1948, his remains were returned to America to be buried in Colorado.
“Sir, it’s an honor to present these awards on behalf of a grateful nation,” said Ireland, who presented the medals on behalf of U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, who could not attend the event.
In addition to the medals, Ireland gave Ted a Gold Star pin, which honors family members of those who died in combat. Ted saluted the general after he placed the pin on Ted’s lapel.
“It’s hard to believe this ceremony has been 74 years in the making,” Ireland told the crowd. “May this ceremony give you and your family the peace and closure your family has sought for so many decades.”
Ireland called Robert a true American hero, saying the nation is forever indebted for his service.
“Let this be a reminder of service past and service present,” Ireland said. “On behalf of a grateful nation, I commend Pfc. Williams on a job well done.”