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thedrifter
09-12-05, 06:11 AM
Sacrifice and service of Sept. 11, local veteran remembered
By Tim Woods Tribune-Herald staff writer

Monday, September 12, 2005

Spend 20 minutes with a group of Marines and you are likely to hear the phrase “Semper Fi.” Short for “semper fidelis,” a Latin phrase that means “always faithful,” it is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps.

On Sunday evening, the McLennan County Veterans Association gathered at the Carleen Bright Arboretum in Woodway to honor the memory of a man whom numerous local Marines, and ordinary citizens alike, deemed the most faithful of them all.

Ken Williams was a Marine who was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries suffered while fighting in the Korean War. Later, he volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, a decision that awed many of the Marines in attendance at Sunday's event.

Williams' service, however, did not end when U.S. troops were pulled out of Vietnam. He was remembered Sunday as a man who would volunteer his time freely, delivering Meals On Wheels, collecting cans and cardboard – spending more on gas than he received for the cans – and donating the proceeds to charity.

“He was the volunteer of the year. Every year, that guy was volunteer of the year,” said Mike O'Bric of the Heart of Texas Marine Corps League.

Doug Smith, a fellow Marine who honored Williams with a tribute at the ceremony, agreed, saying that “he was tireless. Nobody could keep up with the guy.”

When Williams died in early February, those whose lives he touched felt the loss, but none were surprised by how he died.

Williams was killed in a house fire. Not because he was unable to get out, but because after he asked a neighbor to call for help, he went back into the Bosque County house he shared with his wife, Marilyn, to try to save her. Both Williamses died in the fire.

Also honored Sunday were public servants – police, firefighters and troops – who have sacrificed on and since Sept. 11. Their service has been reinforced in peoples' minds in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A few people at the ceremony wondered aloud to what lengths Williams would have gone to serve the community and to assist those displaced by the hurricane.

Even if Williams were here to help, O'Bric said that he would shun any praise that would come his way.

“He never was recognized,” O'Bric said. “All those (volunteer) things he did, he headed them up and he did it, but he never got any recognition for them and it didn't stop him through 10 years of volunteering and charity work.”

John McFarland, another fellow Marine, knew Williams well through their brotherhood at a local Masonic lodge. He said that since Williams' death, the lodge has struggled unsuccessfully to replace him.

“We've been trying to get people to take his place at the lodge and take care of all the things he did,” McFarland said. “We've got four or five people doing it and they still don't do everything he did.”

twoods@wacotrib.com

Ellie

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