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Medal of Honor winners honored with I-20 bridge naming

Posted: August 26, 2014 7:22 p.m.
Updated: August 27, 2014 6:00 a.m.
Gary Phillips/C-I

James Leroy Belk American Legion Post 17 Commander Clay Caruth.

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Military veterans, interested residents and family members of Kershaw County’s three Medal of Honor recipients gathered at James Leroy Belk American Legion Post No. 17 on Saturday to officially name the I-20 bridge that crosses the Wateree River in honor of Richmond Hobson Hilton, John C. Villepigue and Donald Leroy Truesdell.

Post Commander Clay Caruth explained the reason for the event and welcomed special guests, including relatives of the three honorees.

“We are fortunate to have certain family members today of these honored recipients,” Caruth said.

State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk of Camden introduced the bill to name the bridge in honor of Hilton, Villepigue and Truesdell. Caruth thanked her.

“We’re especially appreciative of Laurie’s efforts to get this thing going as far as the South Carolina General Assembly. She kicked it off by introducing the bill in the house,” Caruth said. “She and the co-sponsors, members of our legislative delegation, got the matter going. We owe her a great debt of gratitude.”

Sgt./Maj. Robert Brickley, commander of the S.C. National Guard, gave a brief explanation of the Medal of Honor.

“The president may award and present, in the name of the Congress, the Medal of Honor … to a person while a member of the Army, the naval service, be it the Navy or Marine Corps, the Air Force or Coast Guard distinguishes themselves by gallantry at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty,” Brickley said. “The Medal of Honor is the United States of America’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor.”

Brickley said more than 3,400 Medals of Honor have been presented since it was first conceived in 1861, early in the Civil War.

Funderburk presented Hilton’s, Villepigue’s and Truesdell’s family members with printed citations honoring the three honorees and detailing their heroic acts that earned them the medal.

“It is a true honor to be here and to be asked to read the citations of these brave individuals,” she said. “I want to thank the rest of my delegation … for their support in helping get this through. It was a fine idea and we were delighted to help support it.”

Truesdell’s daughter, Gay Lilly, said it was a great honor to have her father’s name on such a well-traveled bridge on a major highway.

“It is wonderful they are honoring people so drivers coming through South Carolina and Kershaw County in particular will know about them,” she said. “My father probably wouldn’t want his name out there.”

“I’m just proud of it. I didn’t ever really meet him, but I knew his father,” Hilton’s cousin David E. Hilton, said.

Also present, but declining to comment was Villepigue’s nephew, John Villepigue McDowell.


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