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I-20 bridge to be named for Medal of Honor winners

Posted: August 19, 2014 4:49 p.m.
Updated: August 20, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Photos courtesy of American Legion Post 17/

Kershaw County’s three Medal of Honor winners (from left) Richmond Hobson Hilton, John C. Villepique and Donald Leroy Truesdell will be honored by having the I-20 bridge crossing the Wateree River named for them on Saturday.

Three Kershaw County residents who received the Medal of Honor for acts of heroism in battle will be honored again this week.

The I-20 bridge that crosses the Wateree River will be named in tribute of Richmond Hobson Hilton, John C. Villepigue and Donald Leroy Truesdell during a special ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at American Legion James Leroy Belk Post No. 17 in Camden. Organizers said safety concerns made holding a ceremony at the bridge ill-advised. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.

The Medal of Honor first came to be in 1861, in the early days of the Civil War. It is presented by the President of the United States. If the honoree is deceased, the medal is presented to the next of kin.

Hilton’s brave deed happened Oct. 11, 1918 at Bancort, France, during WWI. Hilton’s company was held down by machinegun fire and Hilton charged the gunners, firing his rifle until it was spent, then his pistol, killing six enemy soldiers and capturing 10. He suffered a wound from an exploding artillery shell that resulted in the loss of an arm. Hilton was named after Richmond Hobson, who also received the Medal of Honor for heroism in the Spanish-American War, making him the only namesake of a medal winner to also receive the medal himself.

Villepigue was at Vaux-Andigny, France, a mere four days later on Oct. 15 when he went with two other men to scout the village. They were also besieged with machinegun fire, killing one of Villepigue’s colleagues and wounding the other. He advanced some 500 yards ahead of the rest of his platoon and killed four enemies with a hand grenade. From there he crawled 150 yards forward, where he rushed the machinegun nest, killed four, captured 10 and seized two machine guns. After being joined by the platoon, he also sustained a serious injury to an arm.

Truesdell’s heroism came years later on April 24, 1932, near the Coco River in northern Nicaragua. He was second in command of a patrol of the “Guardia Nacional” fighting against armed bandit forces in the area. While searching along a trail for the bandit group, a grenade fell from its carrier and struck a rock, igniting the detonator. Knowing the grenade would explode in a few seconds, Truesdell rushed to it, picked it up and tried to throw it away. The grenade detonated before he could release it, blowing off the hand that held it and causing other serious wounds to his body. By taking the shock of the grenade himself, Truesdell saved the other patrol members from death or serious injury.

Hilton and Villepigue are buried in Camden’s Quaker Cemetery in an area called “Little Arlington.” There is also a monument there for Truesdell, who requested cremation; his ashes buried in the rose garden at Post 17.

Noting that many road sections, interchanges and bridges are named for politicians and government officials, Legionnaire W. Ashby Rhame suggested to Post 17 that the three Medal of Honor recipients should be similarly honored. The post drafted and passed a resolution that was submitted to State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk who, along with State Sen. Vincent Sheehen, championed the measure in the S.C. General Assembly.

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