Each year on Memorial Day, the nation honors U.S. military members who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty or have passed on since their service.
This Memorial Day weekend is a special one for Columbia and the Midlands. Monday’s memorials come the same week as Fort Jackson culminates the observance of its 100th anniversary.
Since 1917, the fort has trained about 1 million soldiers. And other service members – Marines, sailors and airmen – have trained there.
Many valiantly served their country, defending its freedom and upholding the fort’s current motto of “Victory Starts Here.”
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Of those who served, there are no greater heroes than the ones who received the Medal of Honor.
At least 29 men with direct links to Fort Jackson have received the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, according to Henry Howe of the Fort Jackson’s Basic Combat Training museum. But he added that so many soldiers have come through the fort either for basic training or other reasons, it’s hard to know the real number.
On this Memorial Day, we remember five.
PFC Charles H. Barker
Barker was born on April 12, 1935, in Pickens County and joined the S.C. National Guard in 1952 to serve his country in the war against North Korea.
A building at the fort was named in his honor. It now houses the fort’s security office and the Ernie Pyle Media Center
Barker is one of four Medal of Honor recipients from Pickens County. County officials say it is the largest number of recipients per capita of any county in the nation. All four died as a result of their actions in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Barker died in action on June 4, 1953, near Sokkogae, Korea.
His citation reads in part:
“While participating in a combat patrol engaged in screening an approach to ‘Pork-Chop Outpost,’ Pfc. Barker and his companions surprised and engaged an enemy group digging emplacements on the slope.
“Totally unprepared, the hostile troops sought cover. After ordering Pfc. Barker and a comrade to lay down a base of fire, the patrol leader maneuvered the remainder of the platoon to a vantage point on higher ground. Pfc. Barker moved to an open area firing his rifle and hurling grenades on the hostile positions. As enemy action increased in volume and intensity, mortar bursts fell on friendly positions, ammunition was in critical supply, and the platoon was ordered to withdraw into a perimeter defense preparatory to moving back to the outpost.
“Voluntarily electing to cover the retrograde movement, he gallantly maintained a defense and was last seen in close hand-to-hand combat with the enemy. Barker's unflinching courage, consummate devotion to duty, and supreme sacrifice enabled the patrol to complete the mission and effect an orderly withdrawal to friendly lines, reflecting lasting glory upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the military service.”
Sgt. Richmond H. Hilton
Hilton was born on Oct. 8, 1898, in Kershaw Couny. He was a member of the 118th Infantry, 30th Division, and fought in World War I.
Hilton lost an arm on Oct. 11, 1919, while fighting in Brancourt, France. He returned to Kershaw County and became a civic leader. He died in 1933 at age 35 when his boat overturned in Lake Murray.
Hilton Field, the fort’s major parade ground, is named after him.
His citation reads:
“While Sgt. Hilton's company was advancing through the village of Brancourt it was held up by intense enfilading fire from a machine gun. Discovering that this fire came from a machine gun nest among shell holes at the edge of the town, Sgt. Hilton, accompanied by a few other soldiers, but well in advance of them, pressed on toward this position, firing with his rifle until his ammunition was exhausted, and then with his pistol, killing 6 of the enemy and capturing 10. In the course of this daring exploit he received a wound from a bursting shell, which resulted in the loss of his arm.”
Lance Cpl. James D. Howe
Howe was born Dec. 17, 1948, in Six Mile in Pickens County.
He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on Oct. 31, 1968, at Fort Jackson. That a Marine would enlist at Fort Jackson shows the many ways the fort serves the military community as a whole. It is the Military Entrance Processing Station for the state for all of the branches of the military.
Howe was discharged from the reserves on Dec. 29, 1968, and enlisted in the regular Marine Corps the following day.
He was killed in Quang Nam, Vietnam, on May 6, 1970, while serving with the 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
His citation reads:
“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a rifleman with Company I, during operations against enemy forces.
“In the early morning hours, Lance Cpl. Howe and two other Marines were occupying a defensive position in a sandy beach area fronted by bamboo thickets. Enemy sappers suddenly launched a grenade attack against the position, utilizing the cover of darkness to carry out their assault.
“Following the initial explosions of the grenades, Lance Cpl. Howe and his two comrades moved to a more advantageous position in order to return suppressive fire. When an enemy grenade landed in their midst, Lance Cpl. Howe immediately shouted a warning and then threw himself upon the deadly missile, thereby protecting the lives of the fellow marines.
“His heroic and selfless action was in keeping with the finest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the U.S. Naval Service. He valiantly gave his life in the service of his country.”
Cpl. Freddie Stowers
Stowers was born in Sandy Springs and was the grandson of a slave. He was the only African- American to receive the Medal of Honor from World War I.
He was drafted into the U.S. Army, training at Fort Jackson, and became a member of the segregated 93rd Infantry Division. But when his unit arrived in France, they were transferred to the 157th French Army’s “Red Hand” Division.
Stowers was killed during an assault on Cote 188, a hill near the town of Ardeuil-et-Montfauxelles in the Ardennes.
Stowers’ commanding officer recommended him for the decoration, but it took 73 years for him to receive it. At the urging of the Stowers family and others, President George H.W. Bush presented it to Stower’s two sisters on April 24, 1991.
The citation reads in part:
“Cpl. Stowers distinguished himself by exceptional heroism on Sept. 28, 1918, while serving as a squad leader in Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93d Division. His company was the lead company during the attack on Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France, during World War I.
“A few minutes after the attack began, the enemy ceased firing and began climbing up onto the parapets of the trenches, holding up their arms as if wishing to surrender. The enemy's actions caused the American forces to cease fire and to come out into the open.
“As the company started forward and when within about 100 meters of the trench line, the enemy jumped back into their trenches and greeted Stowers' company with interlocking bands of machine gun fire and mortar fire causing well over fifty percent casualties. Faced with incredible enemy resistance, Cpl. Stowers took charge, setting such a courageous example of personal bravery and leadership that he inspired his men to follow him in the attack.
“With extraordinary heroism and complete disregard of personal danger under devastating fire, he crawled forward leading his squad toward an enemy machine gun nest, which was causing heavy casualties to his company. After fierce fighting, the machine gun position was destroyed and the enemy soldiers were killed. Displaying great courage and intrepidity Stowers continued to press the attack against a determined enemy.
“While crawling forward and urging his men to continue the attack on a second trench line, he was gravely wounded by machine gun fire. Although Corporal Stowers was mortally wounded, he pressed forward, urging on the members of his squad, until he died.”
1st Lt. Charles Q. Williams
Williams was born Sept. 17, 1933, in Charleston. He entered the service at Fort Jackson in 1953, went to Officers Candidate School and joined the 5th Special Forces Group.
Williams was promoted to executive officer of the Special forces “A” Team. He was decorated for heroism in the 14-hour Battle of Dong Xoai on June 9, 1965, in Phuoc Long Province.
He lived in Columbia after the war and died in 1982 at the age of 49.
His citation reads in part:
“Williams was serving as executive officer of a Special Forces detachment when a Viet Cong reinforced regiment struck the camp and threatened to overrun it. He awoke personnel, organized them, determined the source of the insurgents' main effort and led the troops to their defensive positions on the south and west walls.
“Then, after running to the District Headquarters to establish communications, he found that there was no radio operational with which to communicate with his commanding officer in another compound. To reach the other compound, he traveled through darkness, but was halted in this effort by a combination of shrapnel in his right leg.
“As the insurgents attempted to scale the walls and as some of the Vietnamese defenders began to retreat, he dashed through a barrage of gunfire, succeeded in rallying these defenders, and led them back to their positions. Although wounded in the thigh and left leg during this gallant action, he returned to his position. Then, in an attempt to reach the communications bunker, he sustained wounds in the stomach and right arm from grenade fragments.
“As daylight arrived, he took a rocket launcher and a volunteer to load it. He worked his way across open terrain, reached the berm south of the district headquarters, and took aim at the Vietcong machine gun 150 meters away.
“Although the sight was faulty, he succeeded in hitting the machine gun. While he and the loader were trying to return to the district headquarters, they were both wounded. With a fourth wound, this time in the right arm and leg, and realizing he was unable to carry his wounded comrade back to the district building, Williams pulled him to a covered position and then made his way back to the district building where he sought the help of others who went out and evacuated the injured soldier.”
Fort Jackson Centennial observance
Friday, 10 a.m.: Centennial Golf Tournament at the Fort Jackson Golf Course. Pre-registration is required. Fort Jackson members $45, nonmembers $60. To register, email Michael L. Casto at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, 3 p.m. (tentative): Centennial Park Dedication
Saturday, 5 p.m.: Centennial BBQ Picnic and Concert with Hunter Hayes and Kellie Pickler and Fireworks, Hilton Field. Open to the public. Food trucks available. The event will be similar to the Fourth of July concert and fireworks.