A heart for a country

Published 6:32 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2006

By By LYDIA GRIMES – features writer
Charles Williams is one of the nation's newer veterans, having served in the Middle East during two tours of duty.
He joined the Alabama National Guard in 1998 after leaving the U.S. Navy in 1996. By spring 2002, he found himself, along with fellow members of the local 1165th MP Detachment, on the way to Fort Benning. The unit trained there before being shipped out to Iraq to go to Baghdad.
One of the main responsibilities of the detachment was to train and oversee the training of Iraqi police so they could take over the policing of their own area.
One morning in August, Williams' unit had been out all night with the police and were heading back to base camp, when they were attacked.
After putting the flames out on Williams, Pierce went back to find the driver of the Humvee who had been thrown out. He found the driver alive but they were still under fire from the enemy.
After rescuing the driver, Pierce returned fire and ran the enemy away. Relief came up and secured the area and those who were injured were evacuated back to base to receive medical treatment. Williams gives high praise to Pierce for the actions he took on that day.
Williams came away from that incident only slightly wounded and he received the Purple Heart.
Williams was born in East Gadsden and grew up in Dothan. He attended the city schools there and graduated from Houston Academy in 1983. He came from a small family and has one brother. He grew up with a love for scouting, camping and anything connected to the outdoors. He played soccer and basketball at school.
He also had another love. He wanted to be a soldier. From the time he was a small boy, he dreamed of being one some day.
After graduation from high school, Williams attended George Wallace Junior College in Dothan for a while. It was during this time that he met a young lady by the name of Wanda Skinner at a Christian retreat. They would later be married but not for a few years.
Williams quit college and joined the Navy and took his basic training at Great Lakes, Ill. He trained to be a Navy Hospital corpsman. He then was stationed at Beaufort, S.C., where he worked at Paris Island for two years.
He and Wanda were married in 1988 while he was at Beaufort. He later moved to Camp Lejeune, N.C. and then overseas to Okinawa with a Marine infantry battalion. They traveled to Korea, the Philippians and finished up back at Okinawa. They were scheduled to go to Norway for cold weather training when along came Desert Storm in Kuwait. He had just reenlisted and was soon on a ship headed for the Persian Gulf. After spending the next three months on a ship, he got the chance to come back to be reassigned to Pensacola. In January, while he was on leave, he got the call to report to Camp Pendleton in California in support of Desert Shield. He joined up with the First Marine Hospital Battalion near the Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia borders.
He came back home in April of 1991 having won the Marine Combat Action Award along with several others.
He served at the Navy Hospital in Pensacola until 1996 when he got out of the navy.
He left there and went into the emergency medical technician intermediate program. He was able to secure a job at West Gate, where he remains today.
He had joined the Alabama National Guard in 1998 and the unit was called upon in 2000 to go to Salt Lake City to work with security.
Then came the war in Iraqi. After that the unit was involved in security after the rampage of several hurricanes to hit Louisiana and Mississippi.
In September of 2004, they were spared the job of securing others lives and belongings as Hurricane Ivan was on their own turf.
Charles and Wanda Williams have many reasons to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day. Not only did he come home safely after being wounded, but also another event has made him very happy.
On Sept. 29, after three unsuccessful pregnancies, Wanda gave birth to their little girl, Sarah Elizabeth. Sallie was a little premature and gave her mother some rough moments, but all that is behind them now.
Williams has been enjoying the baby too. He took paternity leave and learned how to take care of her.
If and when the Williams have the time, they enjoy the hobby of attending Civil War reenactments dressed in period costume.
Williams, along with the other members of the 1165th MP Detachment have received more awards and recognition than most National Guard units receive.