Despite the cold, this week’s Veterans Day ceremony at Weatherford College was well attended by the community including special guests – members of the 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight family and members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment with the Texas National Guard.
In addition to the traditional Veteran’s Day activities, there was a special unveiling ceremony of a plaque naming the newly renovated building on the campus’ far north side in honor of Knight, the only WC graduate to win the Medal of Honor. Four generations of the Knight family attended the ceremony while members of the 124th presented the wreath in honor of those who have died in battle.
Knight was born and raised in Garner, the oldest of eight children – seven boys and one girl. All the boys joined the military and sister, June, worked in civil service. He died in World War II and brother, Roy Jr., died in Vietnam.
The plaque that will mark the building was unveiled by Knight’s youngest living siblings, June and Dr. Bill Knight. It reads: “A 1938 WC graduate, 1st Lt. Jack L. Knight served with the Texas National Guard, 124th Cavalry, in WWII. 1LT Knight was killed on Feb. 2, 1945 while leading his troop in an attack on a Japanese position in Burma. For his gallantry and intrepidity, he was posthumously awarded the only Medal of Honor for the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations. He was also awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor in 1999. Dedicated Veterans Day 2014.”
Frank Martin, President of the WC Board of Trustees, discovered Knight’s story while searching to see if any WC students were ever awarded the Medal of Honor. This past summer he brought the idea to name the newly-renovated building after Knight to the rest of the board members who all agreed the honor was well-deserved.
In addition to the plaque, a permanent display of Knight’s decorations along with many of his letters, papers and some photography were donated to the college by the Knight family. The collection is highlighted by his Medal of Honor and Purple Heart, and also includes his spurs and a photo of the young soldier on his horse, as he was a member of one of the last mounted cavalry units.
“His parents were hard working, God-fearing people who were truly of the pioneering stock on which this country was built,” Martin said in telling the story of the Knight family. “Their children grew to adulthood during the years of the Great Depression and World War II.”
Five of the boys were enlistment age during World War II, and Knight died on the battlefield protecting one of his brothers.
Dr. Bill Knight, also a WC alumnus and the youngest of the brothers, addressed the crowd following the unveiling sharing stories of his brother including his role as the “straw boss” on their Parker County farm where he learned to be a leader.
“He was devoted to duty and family life,” Bill said. “He was devoted to a very dreadful duty as a soldier. He knew what he was going to do that day when they attacked that hill. In my deepest place in my heart I know that. I read the 250 letters he wrote my momma and daddy the four years he was in the service.”
Bill shared that his brother never married because he didn’t want to leave a widow, and, in relaying stories he was told by other members of Knight’s unit, said Jack told his men that if any one of them failed to go home, that he wouldn’t either. As soon as the troop crested the hill, their mess cook, who had gone into the battle voluntarily, was killed.
“He knew what was going to happen,” Bill said. “Jack knew it. He knew he was going to fight until every Japanese on that hill was dead or he was. That’s Jack. He sacrificed for all of us.”
Ret. Brigadier General Nathan C. Vail, members of the Texas National Guard’s 840th MAC Engineering Co. and veteran WC students representing each branch of the armed forces also participated in the ceremony.
The event was coordinated by Ralph Willingham, WC’s Director of Admissions, along with his assistant, Tammy Peters.
Members of the 124th Cavalry Regiment with the Texas National Guard present the wreath.