CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) -- Naval Health Clinic Cherry Point held a Memorial Day Medal of Honor dedication ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, May 27.
Pharmacist's Mate 2nd Class William Halyburton Jr. was posthumously presented the Medal of Honor for his actions in Okinawa in 1945. NHCCP, or the Halyburton Naval Health Clinic, is named in his honor.
Marian Rousse, Halyburton's sister-in-law, presented the medal on behalf of the family to Chief Hospital Corpsman Benny Flores, Silver Star recipient and NHCCP's highest-awarded Sailor. Rousse had been the Medal's caretaker for several decades, after the death of her mother-in-law.
"I can still recall that day like it was yesterday. Billy's (William) mother was home alone, when a car pulled up to the house," Rousse said. "Two men then went up to the house and informed the family about Billy's death."
"The Navy Hospital Corps paid a high price in their efforts to save lives," said NHCCP Commanding Officer Capt. Angela Nimmo. "One thousand, seventy corpsmen were killed in action during World War II and several thousand were wounded. Among the awards for heroism presented to corpsmen were seven Medals of Honor, 66 Navy Crosses, 465 Silver Stars and 982 Bronze Stars. One of those Medal of Honor recipients who gave the ultimate sacrifice was William Halyburton who was killed in action protecting the life of a Marine May 10, 1945."
"Petty Officer Halyburton was at the side of his Marines. As we gather to recognize him, let's also honor and remember our other service members; Sailors; Marines; Soldiers; Airmen; sons; daughters; fathers; mothers; who also perished while serving our country," said Navy Medicine East Chief of Staff Capt. Cynthia Gantt. "Let's use this time as we head into Memorial Day to inspire new generations to understand the freedom they have been given, and to grasp the sacrifices that have and will continue to be made by our service members who defend it, like Petty Officer Hayburton."
A crowd of almost 200, including members of the Halyburton family, clinic staff, local dignitaries and members of former USS Halyburton (FFG 40), braved the near 90 degree heat to pay tribute to the fallen hero.
Guest speaker for the event was retired Cmdr. Porter Halyburton. An aviator, Porter Halyburton was shot down in 1965 and was the 40th American taken prisoner by North Vietnamese, then spent 7 1/2 years in captivity.
During his speech Porter commented on how his family heritage helped him survive captivity.
"William and I were a generation apart, but I grew up hearing all the stories," Porter said. "He was such an inspiration and I was so proud of him. And while in Vietnam, the memory of his sacrifice kept me going. We must all remember that his sacrifice serves as an inspiration to others."
William Halyburton was a 20-year-old pharmacist's mate, assigned to a Marine rifle company fighting the Japanese in Okinawa when his unit suffered numerous casualties. Exposed to enemy fire, he rushed to aid a fallen Marine. Shielding the man with his own body while administering aid, Halyburton was mortally wounded. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
"We will never know what William might have accomplished had he survived Okinawa," Nimmo said. "His short life held hints of the promise to come as he excelled in school and was attending seminary at Davidson College. Would he have married? Had children? Made the military a career? We will never know."
"But what we do know is that his legacy, his name, his total dedication to his Marines and his country will never be forgotten," added Nimmo.
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