Rock Island Arsenal Dedicates a Health Clinic to the Black Army Medic who Saved Lives on D-Day | local news

The health clinic at Rock Island Arsenal will now bear the name of a black US Army combat medic who is credited with saving countless lives during World Ward II, despite his injury.

The clinic, located in Building 110 in Arsenal, provides primary care services to more than 1,940 soldiers, retirees and their active-duty family members. It will now be called the Woodson Health Clinic, after Sgt. Waverley Woodson, who worked tirelessly to treat several wounded soldiers on June 6, 1944.

“This is a great day for our arsenal; it is a great day for our military,” said Major General Christopher Mohan. “Today, it is a distinct honor and privilege for us to call what used to be simply the Rock Island Arsenal Health Clinic of a true American hero – someone whose heroism has not been recognized for a very long time.”

More than 100 military personnel, officers, civilians and local officials gathered Thursday morning at Arsenal’s Heritage Hall to honor Woodson’s legacy during an official ceremony that included members of the US Army’s squad.

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Mohan said the clinic was named after Woodson went toward helping to correct a “historic mistake” of racial discrimination and segregation that Woodson experienced while serving in the country.

Woodson was a member of the medical staff of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only African American unit to storm Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Despite being injured himself, Woodson treated up to 200 wounded soldiers for 30 hours that day, removing bullets, breaking bones, administering blood plasma and dressing wounds. He also reportedly rescued four British soldiers from drowning, pulled them from rugged waves and performed CPR.

As a result of his heroic deeds, Woodson was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Good Conduct Medal and was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Woodson was also a member of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. Founded in 1917 during World War I, it is the oldest continuously serving division in the regular army.

“Sergeant Woodson did not consider skin color on the battlefield,” Mohan said. “He didn’t think of who he was treating during his historic actions under deadly (gun) fire on Omaha Beach. What he did was undervalued. Yet the courage he displayed was so great that it simply could not be ignored forever.”

“We will try to correct Waverly Woodson and give him his due by naming this clinic for him and dedicating it to his memory,” Mohan said. “What Waverly Woodson did on D-Day should never be forgotten.”

Woodson’s son, Stephen Woodson, traveled from Maryland to attend the ceremony in person. His mother, 94-year-old Joan Woodson, stayed behind, but members of the military said they would provide a recording of her to watch later at her late husband’s tribute party.

“It’s really overwhelming,” Woodson said. “My dad now lives through me on my behalf.” “This is truly the culmination of his medical career. He was honored for being a member of the First Army. I can’t tell you how much this means to our family.”

Woodson said it took years before he fully realized the enormity of D-Day in history, his father’s role in World War II and the impact it had on so many lives.

“He was somewhat of a recluse, like many WWII vets until the later stages of their lives,” Woodson said. “But he was also very active in telling me a lot of the stories he was involved in. It’s really incredible. He was a gentleman of the first class and he was always dedicated to making his dream come true.

“A lot of things he was involved in, I didn’t know about for most of my adult life,” Woodson said. “He was very proud to be a member and serve in the First Army. Talk about it a lot. We still have our First Army uniform – it’s hanging in my mom’s closet; that’s how important it is to him.”

The keynote speaker, retired Lieutenant General Thomas James, said he was honored to participate in the dedication ceremony.

“I am honored to be in the same army as Waverley ‘Woody’ Woodson, and to wear the siege patch (for the First Army),” James said.

“What Waverly Woodson did on D-Day must never be forgotten.”

Major General Christopher Mohan


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