NASELLE, Wash. – Almost 60 years after his service to his countrymen and his fellow service members, a Korean War vet is finally getting the medal he deserves, thanks to his Southwest Washington community.
In the same one-stoplight town of Naselle—even in the same house where he was born—82-year old Bill Wuorinen has lived a quiet, simple life since leaving the devastating blasts of the Korean front lines.
He hadn’t shared much about his days as an Army soldier. But on March 17, 1953, Wuorinen found himself in the middle of an eight-hour Chinese assault.
“There was 150 of us and 16 of us survived,” he said.
And thanks to Wuorinen, that number included his colonel, who had been shot.
“There was heavy fire and I run over and got him and drug him in the bunker,” he remembered.
Wuorinen stopped the bleeding for hours, while another soldier fought off attackers. And Wuorinen did such a great job that authorities mistook him for a paramedic, meaning he would be ineligible for a medal. The colonel and the other soldier each got a Silver Star, but Wuorinen did not.
He spoke to a history class at the local high school’s history class, and the teacher, Rob Dalton saw the oversight as an injustice. He enlisted his students to help with the cause.
“It just seemed like something that was wrong in the past, a mistake, an error,” Dalton said, “and they had a chance to help out, fix it.”
For three years Dalton and his students wrote to state legislatures, pleading that this historical error be corrected. Finally, in January, the Silver Star was approved in Wuorinen’s name.
About half the town showed up to watch as he received his medal.
“About 600 people there,” he said. “I didn’t think anybody would come.” It was 60 years late, but he was grateful nonetheless.
“Well it makes me feel pretty proud,” Wuorinen said. “They don’t give ‘em to everybody, I guess.”