World War II Hero Celebrated 74 Years After Making the Ultimate Sacrifice On Battlefields of Germany
By Alan Zlotorzynski, Senior Editor // January 18, 2019
Congressman Posey Rep. Rob mEDINA Family DELIVERS EMOTIONAL CEREMONY, PRESENTS HONORS
ABOVE VIDEO: Seventy-four years after making the ultimate sacrifice for our country, WWII hero First Lt. William Albert Warner Jr. was honored Wednesday at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center. On hand to receive his Silver Star, Purple Heart and Honor Flag were members of his family, including his daughter, Melbourne beach resident Jeanne Hall.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When journalist Tom Brokaw wrote the book and coined the phrase, “The Greatest Generation” in 1998, he was writing and talking about men like U.S. Army 1st Lt. William A. Warner Jr.
Lt. Warner was killed in action near the end of World War II, cut down by machine gun fire during a fierce battle in an undisclosed village in Germany leading the U.S. Army’s 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.
He was not leading his men by issuing orders from a secure position, but from the head of his company during a fierce firefight that pinned his troops as U.S. soldiers tried to secure an enemy area.
Several weeks later, Lt. Warner was buried at Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. He left behind his wife Opal, a three-year-old daughter, Jeanne, and two and a half-year-old son, Ron.
Seventy-four years, one month and 15 days following Lt. Warner’s official KIA date, Jeanne and Ron were in attendance at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center in Merritt Island where Jeanne, now a Melbourne Beach resident, received her fathers Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Honor Flag among other medals that were long overdue.
The reason for the delay was a disastrous July 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St.Louis which destroyed approximately 16-18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF), among those that were heavily damaged were that of 1st Lt. William A. Warner Jr.
Despite the fact no duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained, nor were microfilm copies produced, Lt. Warners records were able to be reconstructed but not without some help from a family friend and Congressman Bil Posey.
The Warner family is from Huntsville, Alabama where Jeanne attended high school with Brevard resident Charlotte Neale.
The two reconnected 48 years later here on the Space Coast, and as Charlotte put it, what started as a “fluke” in catching up with each other’s past, turned into a quest when the conversation switched to the subject of Jeanne’s father.
The quest, as Neale put it, was to see that Jeanne and her family could finally have closure on the seven-plus decades that have passed since her father was killed, and finally lay him to rest with a deserving ceremony and tribute fitting of an American hero.
A career Navy wife, Neal is no stranger to war stories that involve a loved one making sacrifices to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today. Neal’s late husband Mike Christian was a Navy bombardier-navigator and a prisoner of war for six years during the Vietnam War.
Hall told Neal that her father had received the Silver Star but it was on paper only.
Neale felt this wasn’t right, and after Hall handed over all of the paperwork she had been given by her mother, Neale went to work making phone calls and reaching out to people and agencies.
It was then she found out that Lt. Warner’s records were damaged in the 1973 fire but that didn’t stop her, nor did the amount of time it took as the process would consume more than a year and a half.
She reached out to Congressman Bill Posey’s office who Neale says, “was most helpful.”
Presiding over the ceremonies and representing Congressman Posey was his Director of Community Affairs, Rob Medina.
Medina told Space Coast Daily that Congressman Posey and his office were able to help reconstruct Lt. Warners records by reaching out to the National Records Center and the National archives in College Park, Maryland.
Lt. Warner’s son Ron visited his father’s gravesite in 2006 and spoke with the Decatur Daily about his trip. He noted in the interview that following the passing of his mother, he found 13 letters written from his father to his mother.
They added bits of information to what his family knew about the man his friends called “Al” — that he attended a military high school, was drum major for the University of Alabama band and got a civil engineering degree.
“He was just days or weeks away from coming home,” said Warner. “I know I was just one of many children deprived of a parent in World War II, but I never stopped thinking about what a difference it would have made in my life if he hadn’t been killed.”
Medina delivered an emotionally-charged presentation during the ceremony that had everyone in attendance hung on his every word as he described Lt. Warner’s service and how he lost his life fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today.
Medina, a veteran who served in the United States Marine Corps from 1984-1988 said, “I just wanted to make Congressman Posey proud.”
The room was silent, tearful and proud as Medina presented Jeanne her father’s Silver Star and Honor Flag. He also pinned the Gold Star Lapel Button to her blouse.
Hall also received, and proudly displayed her father’s Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Bronze Service Starr and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Medina not only made the Congressman proud but the long overdue ceremony he delivered was fitting of a national hero, especially one that represents the Greatest Generation.
WARNER, William A. Jr., Death: 1944-12-01, First Lieutenant, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division, Service# O-338068, State of Entry: Alabama, Purple Heart, Silver Star, U.S. Army, World War II
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