XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) – Hank Williamson said he returned to the U.S. a changed person after WWII.
“I was drafted at 18, in combat at 19. I mean, talk about a wake-up call. That will make you grow up very quickly,” Williamson, soon to be 93, said.
Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, Williamson arrived in Europe shortly before Germany’s last major offensive campaign at the Battle of the Bulge. The infantry rifleman recalled falling into rank and embracing Soviet soldiers during an historic meeting between East and West forces at the Elbe River. The event would come to be known as part of the war’s unofficial end in April, 1945.
After Allied troops took Berlin, Williamson helped liberate the Buchenwald Concentration Camp near the city and evacuate its survivors.
He returned to Europe during the Korean War, broadcasting with NBC behind the Iron Curtain. The bronze star recipient retired as a first sergeant in the mid-50s.
“It was such an honor to me to be in the service,” Williamson said. “I know there aren’t too many of us WWII guys left.”
Williamson pursued a successful television career as an NBC host after his return stateside, but never realized his service qualified him for many benefits.
Tim Espich, a Greene County Veterans Service Officer, explained that’s common among veterans.
“Many veterans don’t understand what kind of benefits they’ve earned through their service,” Espich said. “What we do is connect those people to the things they’ve earned.”
With Espich’s assistance, Williamson was able to receive health benefits, like hearing aids, and other resources he said he didn’t know about.
“I was able to obtain some services I wasn’t never realized I was capable of getting,” Williamson said.
He called the services ‘life-changing’ and now shares the experience with fellow veterans.
“Everybody has problems, everybody needs a solution,” he said. “So to help someone just in a little way means everything.”
Williamson is also advocating for any veterans with questions about their eligibility and available services to attend an upcoming resource fair.
GREENE COUNTY VETERANS SERVICES RESOURCE FAIR:
- WHAT: Opportunity to learn about the many benefits available to veterans and their families. The fair will include former Director of Governor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, Timothy Espich, as the guest speaker.
- WHEN: Monday, October 22, 2018 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- WHERE: Media Room, Greene County Service Center, 741 Ledbetter Road, Xenia
- CONTACT: (937) 562-6020
Click here for more information about the Greene County Veterans Services Center.