Saturday, July 05, 2003
Onalaska soldier is ready to come home
By JOAN KENT of the Tribune staff
When Kim Williams answered her phone at work June 27, the man on the other end of the line said, "I bet you never thought I'd remember your work number." Advertisement
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Not knowing who in the world it could be, she asked, "Who the hell is this?"
To her surprise, the caller responded, "It's your son."
Matthew T. "Rudy" Williams, son of Kim and John Williams of Onalaska, is stationed with the U.S. Army in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry.
He said he was calling on a satellite phone that belonged to one of Saddam Hussein's sons. Kim Williams said the soldiers "borrowed" the phone after occupying the son's abandoned house.
"Matt said he was OK," Kim Williams recalled. "They found some chicken in the freezer and had an old-
She also said he joyfully reported that they got to take showers at the house before going on the road again to move north.
Williams, who will be 21 on July 14, joined the Army in June 2002 and left for Kuwait soon after graduating from basic and infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga. last September.
He is a 2000 graduate of Aquinas High School. There he was nicknamed Rudy after the movie of the same name because of his short height, spunk and determination, his mother said.
She keeps a journal of all his calls. At 6:30 a.m. April 11, she said, he called from Saddam Hussein's palace. He said he was in better shape than his Humvee, which had been shot up. "He was driving," Kim Williams said. "They were under heavy gunfire. Luckily, the bullets didn't penetrate the windshield and hit him."
In the June 27 phone call, Matt said he was tired of being tired and tired of the conditions, which included temperatures of up to 130 degrees.
"He said he was tired of the heat, the bugs and the
b.s.," she said. "He said he can't wait to get home and fish, and he wants anything but water to drink."
But his mother said he was in better spirits than when he wrote a letter she received June 23. "That was very depressing," she said. "When you have young, well-trained 20-year-olds saying they are fatigued, it's time to send in fresh troops."
In that letter, Kim Williams said, Matt told about holding one end of a stretcher with a wounded soldier who refused to give up his gun. The soldier shot an Iraqi soldier and saved all the men as Matt was loading him onto a helicopter.
All his reports are not so somber, though, his mom said, reporting that he has told his parents it's great to drive the Humvee in the sand at
50 miles an hour and not have a cop after him.
Matt had been told that he would be home by his sister Meredith's May 24 wedding, but that didn't happen, his mother said. "He was upset, but we told him, ‘That's OK. You have a job to do, and we expect you to it well.' "
In a letter to the La Crosse Tribune, John Williams said he, six brothers and his father all served in the military. "All total over 70 years of service to our country," he said. "I had always looked up to my dad and brothers as my heroes, but there now is a greater hero in our lives. I am proud that he is my son and more honored to say that he is my greatest hero."
Kim Williams will mail Matt's birthday box soon. In it she plans to pack party noisemakers, party hats, 21 candles, a disposable camera and cupcakes. "I'm going to tell him to pretend this is the chocolate cake I make for deer hunting and for his birthdays," she said. "It's our famous Bavarian chocolate cake."
The family will have a party here to celebrate his birthday and take pictures to send him, she said. But she said they plan an even bigger party when he comes home.
Joan Kent can be reached at (608) 791-8221 or firstname.lastname@example.org.