Veterans mall to be dedicated Sunday; Charette bust installed today.

June 22, 2017

Todd Reed, left, Michell Hemmer of the Allied Veterans, and Budde Reed look at the new bust.

Veterans mall to be dedicated Sunday; Charette bust installed today.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — On the night of March 26, 1953, Chinese soldiers in North Korea attacked three hill outposts manned by U.S. Marines and corpsmen from the Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division. The next morning, the Chinese overran the hill. Later that morning, the Marines conducted a counter assault to retake one of the outposts. One of those Navy corpsmen was William Charette, a 21-year-old corpsman from Ludington, Michigan.

Charette and other members of his unit faced a growing number of casualties who were exposed to small arms and mortar fire. When an enemy grenade landed near Charette and a wounded Marine he was tending to, Charette placed himself on top of the Marine in order to shield him from the explosion. In doing so, the grenade’s blast tore off Charette’s helmet and destroyed his medical bad and knocked him unconscious. When he awoke, he found his face bleeding from shrapnel wounds and he couldn’t see. He recovered enough to continue to aid injured Marines in the battle using torn parts of his uniform in order to dress battle wounds. He also removed his battle vest and placed it on another wounded Marine whose vest was destroyed from another explosion. He also attended to five Marines who were wounded in a trench from another explosion, and then stood up in the trench, exposing himself to incoming rounds in order to carry the most serious Marine to safety.

Charette was recommended for the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism and he later was presented the Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Jan. 12, 1954. Charette eventually transferred to the Navy’s submarine service and served in the Navy until 1977 with the rank of master chief hospital corpsman.

Charette was born on March 29, 1932 in Ludington. He was orphaned when he was 6-years-old when his parents both died within a three month period. Bill and his 12-year-old sister were adopted by an uncle. Charette passed away on March 18, 2012.

On Sunday, June 25, at 2 p.m., a bust of Charette will be dedicated as the 19th installment in the Mason County Sculpture Trail at Stearns Park. The bust is part of the newly created Mason County Veterans Mall that has been built in the center of the park. The mall also features the existing war veterans memorial that was installed in 1958.

The veterans mall is a project that has been lead by the Mason County Allied Veterans Council and came to fruition as the result of some residents who had mutual visions to honor local veterans.

Budde Reed said about six years ago, he and his brother, Todd, along with their parents, Milan (Bud) and Dorothy, had observed that the county’s sculpture trail lacked a sculpture dedicated to military veterans. The family decided that it would commission such a sculpture and have it created in honor of William Charette. The project stalled due to Bud’s failing health and eventual death but was revised last year. At the same time, Free Soil resident Bob Gancarz had been talking to Ludington city officials about placing a plaque in Stearns Park that would honor local veterans.

Both parties got together and then approached the allied veterans. “We weren’t going to anything without getting the total commitment of the allied veterans,” Budde said. “Like so many things in this county there seems to be some passion for something and it seems like it almost always crosses the finish line.”

Budde said while the veterans mall includes the war veterans memorial, the mall itself is intended to honor anyone who served in the military, not just those who served during wartime.

“It’s a place for veterans and their family members to go and reflect on the service that those people gave to this nation.”

While it will be officially opened on Sunday, funding is still needed to complete.

“There have been so many people and groups who have come forward and invest in this beautiful mall,” Budde said. “But, we are still in need of additional funding. We are thankful for any amount anyone can give. If we were to exceed our funding goal, the remainder of the funds will go into the Mason County Veterans Endowment Fund, which helps local veterans and their families with various needs.”

Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution may send the money to the Mason County Veterans Mall, Community Foundation for Mason County, PO Box 10, Ludington, MI 49431.

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