Weatherford Democrat

March 26, 2013

Hundreds gather for Medal of Honor ceremony


Weatherford Democrat

— By LIBBY CLUETT | lcluett@mineralwellsindex.com

MINERAL WELLS – Despite a rain shower and cooling spell earlier Saturday morning, more than 100 veterans, active military, community members and at least two sets of Medal of Honor relatives gathered to dedicate Fort Wolters Historical Park’s new memorial to those who received the highest military award, given by the president, and served in Mineral Wells during World War II or the Vietnam War.

Bill Knight, who with his sister June Campbell, was at this year’s and last year’s ceremonies, and said it was an honor to come and represent his brother, Jack Knight, and the 13 other Medal of Honor recipients.

Locally-grown, he said their family - which included seven boys and one girl - grew up on a farm just east of Lake Mineral Wells in Parker County.

“We had to grub out a living there during the depression and into the war,” Knight recalled. “And that experience, I think, helped develop a lot of character for especially those older boys who served in World War II. I was too young for that one.”

“Our childhood playground, for a number of years, was the state park down here,” he said, pointing in the direction of Lake Mineral Wells State Park. “And roamed all over those rocks, crannies and …  bank of Lake Mineral Wells.”

“We drew our sustenance from that used-up land around Garner and Bethesda … and during that time, we learned how to work, thinking about better times, and we learned how to love one another.”

Knight and Campbell were the youngest of the children, but several of their older brothers took up the call to action.

“In 1940, Jack, Curtis and Roy – the three oldest [Knight brothers] – took these lessons they learned over time with them when they joined the 124th cavalry, Troop F, stationed here. That was a National Guard unit at old Camp Wolters, where the high school is,” Bill Knight said.

“They were strong enough, tough enough and smart enough to become leaders. In the end, on that hill in the Burma Road, in early 1945, Jack with Curtis and a number of warriors from around Mineral Wells did their job in an exceptionally successful way,” he added.

He shared how learning how to love became important to his eldest brothers. 

The locally trained cavalrymen left their horses in Kansas and combined with infantry forces to make the 5332nd Brigade, called the Mars Task Force, Knight said.  He added that they trained in India as commandos, whose mission was to march 400 miles in the mountains and jungle in northern Burma to open the Burma Road from Japanese control.

“During that battle, which for Jack lasted about 15 minutes, when they found him on that hill [unofficially called Knight’s Hill] … he went above an beyond the call of duty, sacrificing his life to lead his men through a battle that was as ferocious as a battle can be,” Bill Knight said. “He had learned to love his men as he had his family.”

Through his research with the Medal of Honor awardees, Knight said he “has come to believe that most, if not all, men who receive the Medal of Honor do so out of a deep love … for those men around him.” 

“In fact, he told his non-coms, minutes before they attacked, ‘If any of you guys don’t go home, I won’t either,’” Knight told the crowd. “He knew what he was going to do. Before he was killed, he saw some of his comrades killed, so there was no stopping him.”

Archives at the University of Texas, Arlington, state the following about Jack Knight:

“On February 2, 1945, First Lieutenant Knight, while commanding F Troop, encountered Japanese forces near Lio Kang Ridge, located near the intersection of the Burma and Ledo Roads, near Namhkan, Burma (now Myanmar). During the engagement, Knight destroyed enemy positions and was wounded. Knight’s brother, Curtis, a First Sergeant in the same unit, rushed to his brother’s aid only to be wounded and removed from battle. Jack Knight received further injuries to the face after a grenade explosion, yet continued to assault and destroy enemy positions until he was mortally wounded. Knight was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on June 6, 1945.”

Bill Knight concluded: “So, all of you take comfort in the fact that these men who gave an amount of fame from the intrepidity of battle know how to love. We just can’t ask more from a human being.”