The Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Council presented Bill Norwood its first award Monday during a Memorial Day Remembrance Service held on the Bradley County Courthouse Plaza.
Mr. Norwood, his voice cracking with emotion at times, said he did not deserve such an honor.
“This should be reserved for heroes and I’m no hero,” he said. “I’m just an old country boy from East Tennessee who happens to love his country and his fellow man.”
He thanked his nominator and the selection committee whose difficult task it was to choose a recipient “from that long list of those that are deserving — and it is a long list.”
The former POW recalled the many long days, weeks, months and even years that he endured, struggling for survival.
“I would often look around me, at the deplorable conditions, the pain, the suffering and the despair, and I would ask myself: Is the end result really worth all of this misery? Does anyone really care? Will anyone remember?
“You have answered my questions here today by presenting me with this prestigious award which makes me feel that, yes, there are those who care. After more than 60 years have passed, there are those who still remember and for this, I am eternally grateful,” he said.
SETVH Council co-chairmen Cid Heidel and Bradley County Commissioner Mark Hall presented the inaugural award to the former Korean War Prisoner of War. In explaining the purpose of the award, Mr. Heidel said that among the council’s missions, one is to recognize and support veteran activities and volunteer activities in this area.
“We are starting an annual award this year and it will go to a veteran or non-veteran who has demonstrated a consistent pattern of volunteer work that actively supports veterans’ programs, projects or activities in the Bradley County or local area,” Mr. Heidel said.
He said Mr. Norwood sets the standard when it comes to remembering those who have served this country and those who have given their lives in that service.
Mr. Norwood, a Polk County native, entered the Army in 1948 and in 1950, went to Korea with the 24th Infantry Division. He was captured six months later and held prisoner for 29 months until his release in 1953.
“Following his return, Bill dedicated his life to the welfare of his family, promoting patriotism, Americanism and serving his community, especially veterans,” Mr. Heidel said.
Mr. Norwood is a lifetime member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and other organizations.
“His tireless commitment to serving all veterans, especially former POWs is legendary to say the least,” Mr. Heidel said. “Veterans from this local area, East Tennessee, state and nation have been positively impacted by his dedication and commitment to their cause.”
Mr. Norwood founded the Korean War ex-POW Association, an international organization consisting of survivors of North Korean POW camps.
“At a family’s request, he will travel anywhere in this country, and he may have even gone overseas, to give eulogies for these former Korean War POWs. He has traveled extensively across the country supporting and keeping Korean War POWs and their needs in the public eye,” Mr. Heidel said. “He played a leading role in having a memorial plaque commemorating all POWs at the Andersonville, GA Confederate Prison.”
Mr. Norwood has been a volunteer member of the Bradley County Firing Squad for 15 years. The squad performs more than 50 funerals each year. For the past 10 years, he has volunteered to transport veterans to Chattanooga, Murfreesboro and Nashville medical facilities. Mr. Norwood also volunteers for the Rolling Thunder.
“He works with them to prepare and serve special meals for veterans at state veterans homes in Murfreesboro and the VA Outpatient Clinic in Chattanooga,” Mr. Heidel said as he continued reading from the award citation.
Among his awards, Mr. Norwood has received the 2002 Veteran of the Year Award and the 2013 Charles Coolidge Veteran of the Year Award by the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council.
“Today, Bill continues to display the energy, commitment and dedication in supporting veterans’ causes, his community and Americanism. He is a sought after speaker in local schools, community and civic organizations,” Mr. Heidel concluded.
Kathy Smart, left, admires the first Southeast Tennessee Veterans Home Veterans Service Award presented Monday to Bill Norwood, a former Korean War Prisoner of War.