December 14, 2011

At 92, World War II Marine from Washington Township finally gets his Purple Heart

WASHINGTON TWP. — He pretty much had to be a tough kid, a hard-edged Marine at Guadalcanal, pushing on against the enemy. He fought at Tulagi and at Peleliu.

At 23, U.S. Marine Cpl. Bill Meyers was fighting alongside a guy carrying ammunition at Peleliu. His partner got shot in the neck. Some shrapnel from an explosion hit Meyers in his right side.
Tuesday, almost 69 years later, Meyers, the hard-edged young Leatherneck, was completely overwhelmed as his Purple Heart medal — finally — was pinned on the lapel of his blue suit jacket.
“Boy, oh boy!” he kept repeating, interspersed occasionally with, “Wow!”
Meyers, 92, was wearing a dress white Marine cover — that’s the hat that was often called the flying saucer by other veterans. It belonged to a nephew.
Meyers contacted the Gloucester County Veterans Affairs Office a while back and met with Veterans Service officer Willis Gray, himself a Marine veteran.
They discussed what the veterans’ office might be able to do for Meyers and it came to light that he’d never received any of the wartime medals he’d earned.
He didn’t seem concerned about most of them, but that Purple Heart, he said, “If I had that, I’d pin it on right now.”
Well, Meyers didn’t have to. Chuck Byers, New Jersey Senior Vice Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, pinned it on for him.
Cpl. William MeyersCpl. William MeyersWatch video
Meyers was also presented with the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Combat Action ribbon, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign medal with three battle stars, the World War II Victory medal, the Marine Corps Honorable Service lapel ribbon and the World War II Honorable Discharge button.
Meyers came to the veterans office from an assisted living facility in Washington Township. At least a half dozen of his friends, including at least one other World War II veteran, came along in the facility’s bus to cheer Meyers along.
Nieces, nephews and grand nieces and nephews were there, including Kylie Rowand, who wore her Washington Township High School Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps uniform and walked on Meyers’ left.
A group of Nam Knights awaited Meyers’ arrival and lined the entrance of the veterans’ center to salute Meyers— and loudly rev one of their motorcycles as a salute. He casually and comfortably returned the salute.
Inside, the honor guard from the Marine Corps League’s Semper Fidelis Detachment snapped to attention in their dress blues to complete the welcome for Meyers.
The Gloucester County Military Service Medal was presented to Meyers by CWO John Robertson, also in his dress blues.
Meyers’ niece, Cheryl Wolcott, said folks were invited back to the senior facility for a small party. “There will be sandwiches,” she said.
“And coffee. I want coffee,” said Meyers, who admitted to being a big coffee drinker.
Following the ceremony, Meyers stepped into the relative quiet of an inner office to talk about his wartime experiences — but he was feeling modest.
What about that wound at Peleliu?
“It wasn’t much,” he said, touching his side. “I was all right.”
Despite Wolcott’s prompting — “Tell him about all those battles where you fought the enemy,” she said — Meyers remained elusive.
“I don’t want to tell him too much,” he said.

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