the Rock Island ArsenalThe health clinic will now be named after a black US Army combat medic credited with saving countless lives during World War II, despite his injuries.
The clinic, located in Building 110 on the Arsenal, provides primary care services to more than 1,940 active duty soldiers, retirees and their family members. It will now be called the Woodson Health Clinic, after Staff Sergeant. Waverly Woodson, who worked tirelessly to care for many wounded soldiers on June 6, 1944.
“It’s a great day for our Arsenal, it’s a great day for our army,” Major General Christopher Mohan said. “Today it is our honor and privilege to name what was simply known as Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic for a true American hero – someone whose heroism has gone unrecognized for far too long. “
More than 100 U.S. Army personnel and officers, civilians and local officials gathered Thursday morning at the Arsenal’s Heritage Hall to honor Woodson’s legacy in a formal ceremony that included members of the US Army Band.
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Mohan said the clinic’s name after Woodson helped right a “historic wrong” for the racial discrimination and segregation Woodson suffered during his service to the country.
Woodson was a member of the medical team of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only African-American unit to storm Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Although he himself was wounded, Woodson treated up to 200 wounded soldiers for 30 hours that day, removing bullets, repairing broken bones, administering blood plasma and dressing wounds. He is also said to have saved four British soldiers from drowning, pulling them from rough waves and administering CPR.
As a result of his heroic actions, Woodson was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, the Good Conduct Medal, and he was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Woodson was also a member of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Established in 1917 during World War I, it is the oldest continuously serving division in the Regular Army.
“Sergeant Woodson did not take skin color into account on the battlefield,” Mohan said. “He did not consider who he was dealing with during his historic acts under deadly fire on Omaha Beach. What he did was undervalued and underrated. Yet the courage he showed was d ‘on such a scale that it simply couldn’t be ignored forever.
“We will try to fix Waverly Woodson and give him his due by naming this clinic for him and dedicating it in his memory,” Mohan said. “What Waverly Woodson did on D-Day must never be forgotten.”
Woodson’s son, Stephen Woodson, traveled from Maryland to attend the ceremony in person. His 94-year-old mother, Joann Woodson, stayed behind, but Army personnel said they would provide her with a recording to watch later of the ceremony honoring her late husband.
“It’s really overwhelming. My dad is currently living vicariously through me,” Woodson said. “This is truly the highlight of his medical career. He was honored to be a member of the 1st Army. I can’t tell you how much it means to our family.”
Woodson said it took him years to fully realize the enormity of D-Day in history, his father’s role in World War II and the impact he had on so many lives.
“He was somewhat of a recluse, as many World War II veterans were until the end of their lives,” Woodson said. “But he was also very, very active in telling me a lot of the stories that he was involved in. It’s really amazing. He was a first-class gentleman and he was always dedicated to his dream.
“A lot of the things he was involved in, I didn’t know for most of my adult life,” Woodson said. “He was very, very proud to be a member and to have served in the 1st Army. He often talked about it. We still have his 1st Army uniform – it hangs in my mother’s closet, it’s at how important it was to him.”
The keynote speaker, retired Lt. Gen. Thomas James, said he was honored to be part of the dedication ceremony.
“I’m honored to have been in the same army as Waverly ‘Woody’ Woodson, and to wear this (1st Army) blockade patch,” James said.
“What Waverly Woodson did on D-Day must never be forgotten.”
– Major General Christopher Mohan