Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) -- Wilbur K. Hoffman

Posted on February 29, 2012

  
Mr. ALEXANDER.  Madam President, my late friend, the
late Alex Haley, the author of "Roots," lived his life by these six
words:  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 du
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.  President Reagan
called them "the boys of Pointe du Hoc."  The President
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 of their special training,
they would 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 happened, I volunteered for."  And if you happen to ask how he
feels when he looks back, he will say 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 who had lost arms and legs in
fighting, believed his wounds did not measure up, and so he 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
his dad "the nicest guy you'll ever meet.  Friendly and outgoing but
by the same token, he doesn't like to talk about himself" says the
son. 

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

    Bill is not a native Tennessean.  He was born in
Newark, NJ.  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 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 30 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 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 2 years, the guys are getting old, Bill says, and now they are
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 Hoffman.  We’re proud of you.
Your Nation is proud of you.  Find the good and praise it.