2017-01-18 / Columns

Ki Faulkner

IN THE WILD
by Dan Stiles Wildlife Biologist

Come to find out, Ki Faulkner lives a very few miles away in Harpers Ferry. Ki is a shorten name for Clarence, but I doubt anyone ever dared to call him that. He is a big, strong man. I certainly never did. He is 93 years old now, and a World War II veteran. He gets around in a wheelchair. His son, Scot, brought him over to our home one afternoon recently to visit, get reacquainted and reminisce. I last saw Ki a long, long time ago.

Ki was employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after the Second World War. He offered me a job in 1961. He was my supervisor. I don’t recall him ever talking about his experiences in the war, but I learned a lot about him and his experiences during our recent visit.

Ki was a member of the 10th Mountain Division. That division was made up of an elite group of hand-picked soldiers who were trained intensively, and were best known for their ability to endure and thrive in extremely cold temperatures, repel down steep rock faced cliffs, and to ski expertly. Ki’s outfit fought the Nazis in the mountain peaks of Italy in the winter of 1945. They suffered heavy casualties. Ki attributes his loss of hearing to the many German mortar explosions very close to him.

The details of his days in combat will never be known, because like most combat veterans, they are unwilling to talk very much about their experiences. However, we do know he was awarded two bronze stars and The Soldiers Medal. I don’t know anything about how and why he earned the two bronze stars, but I have a copy of the certificate awarding him The Soldiers Medal. It’s extremely interesting, and reflects so well on the character of this man.

The medal was awarded “For heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy, on 10 February 1945, near Lucca, Italy. While in a house where 18 men were billeted, Staff Sergeant Faulkner exhibited distinctive heroism when one in the group of 18 men in the room extracted a grenade from his pack and handed it to another soldier. In some unknown manner, the fuse became activated and the holder of the grenade was transfixed with astonishment, not knowing what to do. With great presence of mind and heroic courage, Staff Sergeant Faulkner, in a matter of seconds, grabbed the fizzing grenade, instantly ran to a window, and hurled it into the yard where it harmlessly detonated. By his quick thinking, instantaneous initiative, and selfless heroism endangering his own life to save the lives of 18 men, Staff Sergeant Faulkner has earned the highest commendation and praise for his gallantry and valor.”

I’m here to tell you that I’ve thrown hand grenades while in basic infantry training, and the explosion is tremendous and the shrapnel that flies in all directions is awful. Most people have no idea how powerful and deadly a hand grenade really is. As a member and leader of men in the 10th Mountain Division, Ki deserves and has earned the admiration of us all.

When we observed the veterans, many of them in wheelchairs, returning to The World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. on the Honor Flights program, we observed one of the escorts with a message on his shirt. It read, “If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.” Thanks, Ki. Thanks very much!

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a very fine tribute you

a very fine tribute you have penned