Last night a very moving ceremony took place in the Antietam National
Battlefield Auditorium. Henry Willard presented a Medal of Honor
awarded to his great grandfather, Lt. George White Hooker to the people
of the United States of America. Lt. Hooker was awarded the medal for
valor displayed at Crampton's Gap on Sept. 14, 1862 with the 4th VT
Infantry. There is a story about it on the Herald Mail website today.
Mr. Willard was below decks on the USS Franklin, a WWII aircraft
carrier on a day in March of 1945 when a Japanese bomber dropped two 500
lbs bombs through the flight deck. He and over 100 sailors were trapped
below decks and were led to safety by a Navy LT who also earned the
Mr. Willard's comments were entertaining as he presented the medal.
Although he knew little about Hooker he comes from a family rich in
history. An ancestor built the Willard's Hotel in DC and mentioned that
Julia Ward Howe wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic there. Although
the hotel is no longer in their family, he said they always sing that
tune at family funerals.
He also was the grand nephew of Jim Fiske, the NYC financial buccaneer,
and he told several anecdotes about him.
John Schildt gave a very moving speech about heroism and past heroes,
all the way up to Fireman patrick Roy, killed on board the USS Cole and
buried in Antietam's National Cemetery in November of 2000.
It was a wonderful evening and the Willard family's generosity is an
example for us all.
Thomas G. Clemens D.A.
Professor of History
Hagerstown Community College
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