Surpassed Sgt. York
In Medals, But Died
With Few Knowing;
Rep. Hawk Is Sponsor
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
A war hero should never be forgotten.
That almost happened, though, to World War I's most decorated soldier, a native Greene Countian whose story almost slipped through the cracks of history.
On Thursday, state Rep. David Hawk, R-5th, of Greeneville, plans to present before the Tennessee House of Representatives a joint resolution recognizing that World War I soldier not only for his heroic efforts during the war but also for long battle that followed -- a battle that many soldiers today also face.
It seems life wasn't always fair for Medal of Honor recipient Calvin Ward, a man whose family said he was never quite the same after the brutality of war.
"The John Calvin [Ward] who came home was not the same John Calvin who left for war," Hawk said.
Today, such changes are often known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which is an anxiety disorder that follows a traumatic event, according to the National Center for PTSD.
The center describes PTSD as a disorder that interferes with daily life, causing stress, changes in emotions and avoidance of situations that bring back traumatic memories.
Although never officially diagnosed with PTSD so far as is known, Ward's family and historical accounts indicate that he battled depression after the war, Hawk said.
This battle, coupled with a reported shying away from the spotlight, may be why, today, most would name Sgt. Alvin York, also a Tennessean, as WWI's most decorated officer.
CAME TO LIGHT IN COLUMN
Ward's extremely outstanding military record came to light when Greeneville Sun columnist Bob Hurley took the initiative to dig into the history of this little-known war hero in the 1970s.
He found that Ward won 12 medals to York's eight, a discovery that has garnered modest attention for the soldier, who died in 1967.
Ward's decorations included the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest honor for military valor; the Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts, along with six foreign medals.
York received were three American awards, including the Medal of Honor, and five foreign awards.
Ironically, both men received their Medal of Honor decorations from General John J. Pershing on the same day in 1919.
(An official marker from the Tennessee Historical Commission now stands in Ward's honor on U.S. Hwy. 11-E, near Interstate 81.)
Ward struggled with alcoholism after World War I. He went back into the armed forces but the alcohol problem followed him, and he eventually left the service with a dishonorable discharge.
His life ended tragically when he died in a Morristown hotel room. The coroner ruled the death a suicide, according to Hurley's report.
TOUCHED BY ARTICLE
In December, Hurley wrote a follow-up column to the columns on Ward that he published in the 1970s and in 1997 to provide a gentle reminder of the 44th anniversary of the hero's death.
"My interest was sparked 100 percent by Bob Hurley," Hawk said. "Mr. Hurley wrote an article in a recent Greeneville Sun that connected with me on a very deep level and reminded me how important it is to remember our heroes of the past as well as welcome home our heroes of the present," Hawk said.
By recognizing Ward and publicly remembering his story, Hawk hopes to call attention to the fact that many of the nation's returning soldiers today face the same post-traumatic issues and need assistance.
WHALEY TELLS HIS STORY
Connie Whaley, of Greene County, is regional coordinator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and works to raise awareness of these and similar issues.
Hawk said Whaley uses Ward's name and story when campaigning for these issues and, as a result, the state legislator has asked her to join him on the House floor when the Clerk of the House reads the resolution.
Having the resolution read is special in itself, he said.
"We pass many, many resolutions, but just a select few are actually read into the journal on the House floor, which is what I requested of this resolution," Hawk said.
Within the text of the resolution, Hawk states, "If we wish to properly honor Mr. Ward's memory and thank him posthumously for his contributions to preserving democracy and the American way of life, we should do so by recommitting ourselves to better serving today's American soldiers suffering with PTSD."
The Clerk of the House will read the resolution about 10 a.m., Thursday.
To watch it live,