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David J.
Republican FL 13

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  • Honoring William M. Allen

    by Representative David W. Jolly

    Posted on 2015-01-21

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    JOLLY. Mr. Speaker, this past December, the community of Pinellas County, Florida--indeed, the Nation--lost an American hero, William M. Allen.

    Bill Allen was 83 years old and had served in the United States Army from 1949 to 1953 as a sergeant, Charlie Company, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.

    Mr. Allen was a prisoner of war from January 1, 1951, until August 1953, held captive during the Korean war after being overcome by Chinese troops. Mr. Allen was just 19 years old at the time.

    To those who knew Mr. Allen, he was one of those remarkable people that left a lasting impression on you after just a single encounter. He was a patriot. He would share his stories not for his own attention, but to impart on each of us the story of sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make so that the United States--all Americans--might live in peace, protected by those who serve.

    Mr. Allen's story was most human. In his own words, he wrote this about his enlistment in the Army and subsequent deployment: Then there are people like myself, the little guy who went to Korea as a young kid, still wet behind the ears, fresh out of high [[Page H439]] school, who joined a peacetime army, but soon found himself in one of this country's most controversial military and political situations known at that time.

    When it was over, we came home as veterans; no longer were we the kids down the street. We were now that guy home from war, the war that only a very few knew very much about, a war that was unpopular, and a war that was soon to be forgotten, forgotten only by those who didn't have to fight it.

    Mr. Allen did fight that war for us, and his sacrifice truly became real the day he knew he had been overcome by Chinese forces. He recalls wondering at that very moment would they shoot him, and in those brief moments, Mr. Allen recalled that he knew then that the course for his life would forever change. Two things he said he knew for sure: one, he was still alive; and, two, he was now a prisoner of war.

    Indeed, the course of Mr. Allen's life had changed forever. He endured many terrible moments as a POW. His family endured much grief, much worry, much pain; but his life had also changed forever because Mr. Allen would later find another calling in life, that of teaching others the importance of service, teaching about the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, sharing with others the true cost of freedom.

    He would share these lessons with anyone he would encounter, but he also did something very special. He contributed many of his personal items from the war--letters, telegrams, newspaper articles--to the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo, Florida, for a permanent display dedicated to his POW story. Moreover, he then volunteered his time to teach young people at the museum the very lessons of service, to share with visitors his deeply personal story.

    Mr. Speaker, Bill Allen served our Nation in war, but he then served his community here at home, passing down a rich legacy to generations that follow. I was one of those individuals who had an opportunity to share in that story, and I am blessed by my experiences with Mr. Allen.

    For his military service, Mr. Allen was awarded many medals, including the Combat Infantry Badge, the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and others.

    Mr. Allen is survived by his wife, Helen, of whom he once wrote: If she was not with me, I don't know what I would have done. She was not only my wife, but she is my best friend.

    Mr. Allen is also survived by his children, Susan and Bill, and many grandchildren.

    Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, before Mr. Allen's passing, he presented me with a copy of his book, ``My Old Box of Memories,'' and inscribed on the inside jacket is his message, ``Freedom is not free.'' Indeed, we know freedom is not free.

    Today, I rise to remember and honor Mr. Allen, to remember and honor his legacy, a legacy that will live on through the many people he has touched and, most importantly, through individuals, children, and youth that he devoted his time to educating about the cost of war, the importance of sacrifice, and the dignity of service.

    I thank Mr. Allen today for his service to our Nation and to pay a most fitting tribute, that for a man who sacrificed so much on behalf of our Nation, today is remembered in the well of this House--the people's House--by Members of Congress and by a grateful Nation.

    May God bless Bill Allen; may God bless his wife, Helen; may God bless his family; and may God richly bless each and every American who today serves and protects and defends the United States of America.


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