Surrounded by family, fellow veterans and hospital personnel, 91-year old Estis Woods, a WWII Navy veteran, was celebrated with a long overdue honor – an official awards ceremony and United States Flag presentation.
Nearly 40 people attended a special reception held at Methodist on July 22 to witness Mr. Woods being recognized for his service and valor. Organized by Mr. Woods’ family during his hospitalization on 5-West and coordinated through the hospital’s support and clinical staffs, the event featured military representatives from the Campbell County Honor Guard who read aloud the listing of Mr. Woods’ many medals and ribbons. In addition, the Honor Guard presented him with the U.S. Flag that flew this past Father’s Day from the forward mast of his now decommissioned service ship, the Battleship North Carolina.
One of eleven children, Mr. Woods was so passionate about serving his country during World War II that in March of 1943, six months before his 18th birthday, he lied about his age to enlist into the Navy.
“I served for my country and for East Tennessee,” said Mr. Woods during the recognition ceremony. “I love my East Tennessee.”
During his tour of duty, he served as Seaman Second Class – Third Division on the USS North Carolina until November 1945, earning a total of 11 different medals and ribbons including:
- Department of Defense Distinguished Service Military Ribbon
- WWII Victory Medal
- WWII American Campaign Medal
- Navy Good Conduct Ribbon
- WWII Asiatic Pacific Medal
- Navy/Marine Corps- USCG Presidential Unit Citation Medal
- WWII American Defense Medal
- Philippine Liberation WWII Ribbon
- WWII Navy Occupation Ribbon
- WWII Philippine Defense Ribbon
- Navy Expeditionary Ribbon
After completing his military service, Mr. Woods married his sweetheart, Mildred, and they put down roots in her home town of Lake City. That was 70 years ago and now he and his bride have a wonderful family of five children, eight grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Most of them all still live here in Mr. Woods’ beloved East Tennessee.
“Thank you so much for making this happen for our dad,” said BJ Pace, one of Mr. Woods’ daughters, who was instrumental in organizing the event. “We have wanted to do this for Dad for quite some time and this is a memory – and a kindness – we will never forget.”
Event coordination can be a logistical challenge even under the best circumstances, let alone during a hospitalization. But teamwork prevailed when members of the physician, nursing, transport and administrative staffs pulled together to create this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Darla Jones, who was covering the hospital as the nursing supervisor that Saturday, worked tirelessly to ensure the event went as planned. With temporary coverage secured for any emergent needs in the hospital, she stayed with Mr. Woods throughout the ceremony to monitor his health status and make certain he could enjoy the afternoon without jeopardizing his condition.
“This was his special day and I didn’t want him to miss it,” said Jones.
Before the event, Mr. Woods spoke to Jeremy Biggs, MMC President, about his service and how much he loved his country and the people of Tennessee.
“What an honor it is to meet you,” said Biggs. “Thank you for your service to our country.”
Indeed, thank you, Mr. Woods – and to all our veterans – for your service and your sacrifice. We are truly the home of the free, because of the brave.