|07-09-2003, 03:09 PM||#1|
VET: Williams keeps busy
VET: Williams keeps busy
Williams, a Korean War vet, served in Army, Marines
By Earl Williams, Staff writer
His life reads like a Hollywood movie script.
If James Williams, 68, was still a kid, he could definitely play the role of the underage boy who goes off to fight for his country, gets wounded in combat and returns home an American hero.
The twist in his saga is that at age 15, Williams joined the U.S. military twice, first serving with the U.S. Army and then with the U.S. Marine Corps.
How could this possibly happen?
In June of 1950, it was a John Wayne flick he had seen and the need to help his mother support the family that drove Williams to drop out of school and join the Army.
Of course, there wasn't anything fictional about it when Williams saw the enemy carrying weapons of equal capability and firing bullets in his direction.
"I saw John Wayne in 'The Sands of Iwo Jima' and wanted to save the world,' he said while sitting in his wheelchair Sunday afternoon at the Long Beach Arena, where he is entered in the air gun and bowling competitions at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games this week. "John Wayne made it seem so easy. I came back a whole different person.'
He had gone from his hometown of St. Louis, Mo., to the combat zone of Korea, where 14 days into action, he was hit by machine gunfire in the left shoulder and was hospitalized for three months.
"I grew up poor. I thought that if I could go to war, I could help my mother. I sent home my money,' Williams said. "If I had gotten hit straight on, I wouldn't have a shoulder.'
He has a long jagged six-inch scar.
Williams turned 16 on Oct. 20, 1950 and was discharged from the Army in April of 1951.
"After I turned 16, they (military personnel) found out I was too young to fight. I was discharged. I stayed out six months, then I enlisted in the U.S. Marines.'
Williams, who was picked on by his peers and wanted to do something to show them that he was tough and brave, clearly recalled joining the U.S. Marines on Oct. 25, 1951.
"I guess I was young and crazy,' he said. "The Korean War was still going on. I was sent to Japan.'
Williams served all over the world before he left the U.S. Marine Corps in 1961. He married three times and had two children, both of whom have passed away.
Five years ago, Williams suffered a spinal cord injury and lost his left eye when he fell down an embankment in St. Louis. But this didn't prevent Williams, the president of the Paralyzed Veterans of America, from winning the organization's air gun trap shooting contest a year ago in his home state.
"When you shoot, you close one eye. I don't have to worry about that,' Williams said with a laugh. "There ain't no sense of crying about it.'
Williams, who didn't place in the 9-ball competition on Sunday, didn't say how it impacted his bowling game.
"I tried and didn't make it,' he said about 9-ball. "I'll do better in air gun.'
These days, the veteran enjoys his grandchildren, learning about computers, creating ceramics, and serving as a volunteer peer partner.
"You have to do something to keep busy. You don't give up,' Williams said. "I try to motivate them (disabled veterans) so they won't feel sorry for themselves.'
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