Alexander to World War II Veteran and Memphis Resident Wilbur K. Hoffman: “Your Nation is Proud of You”

In speech on Senate floor, recalling Reagan’s speech on those who fought at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day, calls Hoffman “a hero who helped free a continent and end a war”

Posted on February 29, 2012

“This year, the Army has awarded Bill a Purple Heart. But not for the first time. During World War II, the Army tried. But Bill, in an Army ward surrounded by soldiers that had lost arms or legs in the fighting, believed that his wounds didn’t measure up and said, ‘I don’t think so.’” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON – In a speech today on the floor of the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) praised the heroism of Memphis resident Wilbur “Bill” Hoffman, who served in the Army for 24 years and was among the Rangers who fought in Normandy on D-Day.

The Senator’s speech is below:

[Remarks as prepared]

My late friend Alex Haley, the author of Roots, lived his life by the motto: “Find the Good and Praise it.” I am here today to praise a remarkable hero who served in one of the most difficult battles in our nation’s history and who today at 90 years old lives a quiet life in Memphis with his family.

Wilbur K. Hoffman, or “Bill” to his fellow rangers, was a member of the Dog Company of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, which in 1944 was among the select few companies that stormed the cliffs at Pointe de Hoc on D-Day and turned the war around for the Allies.

Forty years after Bill Hoffman and his fellow 2nd Battalion Rangers clambered up the rocky cliffs on the shoreline of France, President Reagan returned to the windswept spot to pay tribute. He called them “the boys of Pointe du Hoc.” He said, “These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war.”

This is Bill Hoffman—a hero who helped free a continent and end a war. Bill volunteered to join the Army in 1942. A year later he volunteered to join the Rangers, a select group that were charged with special missions. Bill says that because of all their special training, they’d simply “get the mission done.”

Bill got out of the Army in 1945, after the war, but took a look at the job market and said, “I think I’ll go back in.”  Bill served in the Army for 24 years.

Bill likes to say, “Everything that ever happened, I volunteered for.” And if you happen to ask about how he feels when he looks back, he’ll tell you just as plainly: “No regrets.”

This year, the Army has awarded Bill a Purple Heart. But not for the first time. During World War II, the Army tried. But Bill, in an army ward surrounded by soldiers that had lost arms or legs in the fighting, believed that his wounds didn’t measure up and said, “I don’t think so.”

Bill’s son David, more than 60 years after his father first declined the Purple Heart, contacted the Army about trying again. Capturing his father’s humility in declining the medal decades ago, David calls him “the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Friendly and outgoing but by the same token, he doesn’t like to talk about himself.”

Bill is the father of seven children—and nearly all of them that could join the service, did – or married someone who did.

Bill is not a native Tennessean. He was born in Newark, New Jersey. He came to Tennessee first as a Ranger in training. The Rangers came from all over the country and assembled in Camp Forrest in Tullahoma, Tennessee, for training.

Bill’s wife came down to visit him there for a couple of days during training, and it must have had a real effect on her, because more than thirty years later, after Bill was out of the army after 24 years of service, and they were living in New York state, Bill’s wife said to him, “I want to go to Tennessee. I like it down there.” So they packed up the U-Haul and moved down to Ashland City, along the Cumberland River
Today, Bill is one of only three rangers left from the original 2nd Battalion, Dog Company. While the ranger reunions used to occur once every two years, the guys are getting old, Bill says, and now they’re doing them every year.

“Good bunch of guys,” Bill calls his fellow heroes. “They say, ‘Ranger friendships are forever.’ It’s true.”

Bill turns 91 on Friday. It is an honor for me to wish this American hero a happy birthday.

Congratulations Bill. We’re proud of you. Your nation is proud of you.

Find the good and praise it.

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