Veterans Day + 2

So a few weeks ago in hopes of getting it transcribed in time for this past weekend’s Veterans Day, I went diving through the archives of my Pasadena Weekly days and wouldn’t you know they’re just about complete except I’m missing the issue that had one thing I was looking for: a feature article I wrote back in 1999 on Retired Marine Corps General and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Louis H. Wilson and his wife Jane, who I had the pleasure to meet and interview.

How it all came about is a matter of luck and nice timing. For whatever reason I was in attendance at the re-dedication of an armed forces reserve center in Pasadena and during the ceremony’s speeches and such reference was made in passing to Wilson, who was in attendance, and his illustrious much-decorated career with the Marines.

So with that Veterans Day approaching I figured an interview with him might make a good piece for the corresponding issue and so I put a call in to the media contact who put me in touch with the General’s wife directly and who were gracious enough to invite me to their San Marino home for a couple hours trying to get him to do more than modestly and curtly recount not only his bravery in the face of the horrific action he saw in Guam that led him to be given the Medal of Honor, but also his career that culminated with him being the 26th Marine Corp. commandant and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appointed by President Gerald Ford.

I wasn’t very successful. In fact the most animated he got was when I made reference to him being a Medal of Honor “winner.” I knew my mistake immediately but before I could offer up a correction he did it for me. “Medal of winner holder,” he emphasized.

And yes I had the distinct honor of holding the actual medal.

The day the article ran I wrote the General a letter of gratitude and thanks:

November 11, 1999

General Louis H. Wilson
San Marino, Calif.

Dear General Wilson:

I want to again thank you for the privilege of allowing me into your home to interview you for the article that appears in today’s issue of the Pasadena Weekly. You’ll find enclosed two copies of the newspaper, along with the material and photographs you provided me. The story appears on page six. If you need more copies, just say the word and they’ll be on their way to you.

I’ve been asked to relay greetings and best wishes to you and your wife from Walter Neely of Millsaps College and from Charlton and Marie Roby of Jackson, Miss., who requested I send them copies of the feature as well.

I hope the article meets with the approval of you and Mrs. Wilson. My only regret is that I didn’t have enough room to tell a more complete story of your service after World War II and your time as Commandant — but such a limit on space is a reality of newspapers.

General, I can say without reservation that meeting you was a distinct and profound honor. While I can picture you modestly shaking your head at such a comment, I regard the opportunity you provided for me to write about you and your wife as one of the most memorable of my career in journalism — and my life.

You have my prayers for your improved health and my best wishes for a very happy anniversary.

Very truly yours,
William Campbell

Anyway, as luck would have it I chanced upon a tearsheet of the article this morning. So in honor of Gen. Wilson (who died last year in his home state of Mississippi at age 85), his wife and all veterans, I make the seven-year-old feature available here, albeit a couple days later than I’d hoped.