Warwick resident and World War II combat veteran Willard D. “Bud” Voigt was presented with several prestigious awards at the Rhode Island National Guard Command and Readiness Center on Friday, January 12.
Senator Jack Reed presented Voigt with military honors that he earned but never received, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Bronze Star, World War II Victory Medal, Combat infantry Badge, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, and Marksman Badge and Rifle Bar.
“It is an honor to recognize someone who’s served with such great courage while deployed and as a citizen,” said Senator Reed.
Voigt had recently reached out to the Senator’s office to receive his Purple Heart that he had earned during the war, and was surprised to learn of the other military honors he had also earned. “I actually didn’t know I was going to get them to tell you the truth,” said Voigt.
Voigt’s wife of 64 years, Gladwyn Voigt, as well as several of their children, grandchildren, and friends were all in attendance.
Voigt’s son, Gregory Voigt, spoke to attendees with great admiration and pride while speaking on behalf of his father’s accomplishments.
Willard Voigt, 92, grew up in Fall River, Massachusetts during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and after graduating from Durfee High School in 1943, voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army that same year. “Being 18 years old, I was always called junior, because everyone else was in their 20’s,” said Voigt.
After completing basic training at Camp Croft, South Carolina, he was sent by boat to Scotland, and then to the United Kingdom in April of 1944 in preparation for the D-Day landings. Voigt recalled the moment he found out he was going.
“At six in the morning, the Colonel woke us up and told us the troops had landed in France, and that we were leaving shortly.” They were nervous for what was to come, but did what they could to keep their spirits up. “We all prayed of course, and that helped a lot,” he said.
During the invasion in France, Voigt served with the 90th Infantry Division, going town-to-town fighting the German Army. They reached Saint Lo, where he and his platoon attacked a German machine gun nest. The Germans opened fire on them, and a fellow soldier was shot in the heart and killed by his side. A grenade was thrown into their vicinity, causing shrapnel to hit Voigt in the leg.
fter his platoon was finally able to take the machine gun nest, he was evacuated back to the UK.
“I was very fortunate. I got hit, but I got out safe,” he said.
After a full recuperation, Voigt was being shipped back to the front when he bumped into a Sergeant he knew, who requisitioned Voigt to stay in the UK to be a part of his platoon of Military Police (MP). He spent the remainder of World War II going after AWOLs throughout the UK.
After the war, Voigt was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany as part of the Allied Occupation force, where he witnessed firsthand the aftermath of a town that had been leveled by allied bombardment.
Voigt returned to United States in April of 1946. With the help of the G.I. Bill, he received a B.A. in Business from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Voigt went on to marry his wife, Gladwyn, and they raised four children together. He continued on to have a successful career as a financial advisor at Merrill Lynch, which is now part of Bank of America.
Three years ago, at 89 years old, Voigt and his son were part of an Honor Flight to Washington, DC to help bring closure to veterans that had fought in World War II. Along with 24 other veterans and their sponsors, they were met with a crowd of around 500 people consisting of blue and gold star families, the American Legion, VFW posts, and other volunteers cheering them on at TF Green Airport.
When they arrived at BWI Airport in Maryland, they were again met by a crowd of almost 500 military personnel that had come to show their support. The Rhode Island Contingent spent the day visiting the World War II memorial and meeting other veterans from across the country.
Senator Reed first met Voigt on the plane ride home from Washington, where he spent time with each of the Honor Flight veterans. When they returned home, they were again met with a crowd of people singing patriotic songs and thanking them. Voigt wept with gratitude.
Voigt’s son, Gregory Voigt followed in his footsteps. He graduated from West Point and served for six years in the army, attaining the rank of captain, and was stationed in a field artillery unit in Western Germany during the end of the Cold War. His son, and Willard Voigt’s grandson, Cameron Voigt, is also a recent graduate from West Point.
“I’m very proud of both of them,” said Voigt.
Senator Reed reflected on the courage of Voigt and other veterans in a statement: “The war changed the course of his life, and the actions he and his fellow soldiers took helped change the course of history. I am proud to honor Voigt’s patriotism, bravery, and the sacrifices he made over seventy years ago as a young soldier, as well as the civic contributions he made as a citizen after returning home from the war. These medals are a small, long overdue token of our enduring gratitude. We simply can’t say thank you enough to members of the Greatest Generation like Willard Voigt.”