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Like Father, like son; generations of Willyerds served in battle - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Like Father, like son; generations of Willyerds served in battle

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BOSSIER CITY, La -
As we approach Father's Day we have a story of amazing military service for one family. Their service dates back -- as far as they know -- to the Civil War and the Spanish American War, and almost every war since involving U.S. forces.
 
We meet a father and son who fought in two of those wars.

As the U.S. Army and our allies fought through Italy in World War II, James Willyerd of Bossier City was there.

"Kind of hard," the 91- year  old veteran recalls of his battles.  "All the Germans wanting to throw the shells in where we had to camp."

He earned four Bronze Stars and picked up a Purple Heart along the way after being hit with hot shrapnel.

"See that scar?" James asks, after rolling up a pant leg of some bad memories, James has never talked much about the war. 

"I done that kind of like I did smoking," he said of another decision to quit.

But the tough battles his father faced did not stop his son, Robert, from wanting to serve in the Vietnam War.  He was trying to sign up in the Navy when the Army drafted him and trained him as a forward observer.

"We were up in the very front," Robert, now 61, says.  "They send you out with three days supply of rations. And you come back 7,8 -- 10 days later."

Robert would spot enemy positions and call in artillery fire.  But sometimes the enemy spotted him in his watch tower.


Robert says enemy shelling shot two watch towers out from underneath him.

"You just kind of rode it down and hit the ground. Then you just found the closes hole or bunker you could get into," he says.

Robert's father admits he worried about is son in combat.  But James adds, "I don't think it hurt any young boy to go into service."

James is the son of a World War I veteran. He calls the family's lineage of willing soldiers "wonderful."

And his son Robert adds, "Oh, I'm proud of my family."

Robert now lives in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Other family members who've served at war include one of James' granddaughters in Desert Storm.  Another grandson served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And a great grandson will go into the Army this summer.  So the family tradition of service lives on.

The Korean War is somehow the only major war since the Civil War that a Willyerd was not a part of.
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