Tom Willard

TIGER FORCE Company ’65

I was the Medic for Recon/Tiger Force 1/327. Went over with the Brigade on the ‘big boat’ from Campbell in ’65.

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Terry DeVine column: N.D. oral history project reunites veterans who served in combat

Tommie Lee Willard, 69, died peacefully Nov. 29, 2016, at Sanford Health, Bismarck.

He was born May 2, 1947, in Indian Springs, Ga., to Tommie Lee Willard Sr. and Nellie Faye Smith. In 1964, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and graduated paratrooper jump school. Tom was a highly decorated member of the 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” and served as a combat medic in Vietnam in 1965. During his tour of duty he suffered severe injuries during his heroic acts on the battlefield, which led to a medical discharge. He received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with “V” for Valor, among other military awards. Perhaps he was most fond of the honor he received as a Distinguished Member of the Regiment.

After the military, Tom pursued other interests such as flying, scuba diving and skydiving. In 1977, he married Laura Lipp and together they raised four wonderful children. Tom graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1983 with a degree in criminal justice.

Another of Tom’s passions was writing, and he became an award-winning and critically-acclaimed author, publishing 21 novels during his career with several major publishing houses. With his writing career established, his talents would cross over into a career of teaching, and he became a Professor of English during the 1990s. He taught English composition at multiple universities in North Dakota, including the University of North Dakota, the University of Mary, and Bismarck State College.

Along with his many writing and teaching accomplishments, Tom was also an inventor and entrepreneur. Being a disabled veteran and amputee to his left hand, he invented and patented an “adapter” for his prosthetic arm, which allowed him to play golf. He helped and inspired many people with like disabilities and gave them hope by allowing them to play a game they loved.

Tom is survived by his wife, Laura; his son, Sean Willard and his grandchildren, Emersen and Ethen Willard, Homosassa, Fla.; his son, Ryan Willard, New Orleans, La.; his son, Brent Willard, Bismarck; his daughter, Alissa Willard (Brandon Harrington) and granddaughter, Livia Harrington, Grand Island, Neb.; his sister, Sharon Blood, Carthage Texas; his uncle, Kenneth (Delma) Hutchins, Owensboro, Ky.; his aunt, Della Worobetz, Owensboro Ky.; his special cousin, Russell Hutchins, Owensboro, Ky.; numerous other cousins; and many nieces, nephews and their families.

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