A small building on a Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island rifle range bears a big honor for a Korean War vet who fought in one of the Corps' most famous battles.
The control tower on Parris Island's Chosin Rifle Range is now called "Willis Tower," after it was dedicated to retired First Sgt. George Willis during a May 24 ceremony at the depot, according to a Marine Corps news release.
Willis earned a Purple Heart after he was injured by a grenade blast during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in the war. He was a corporal at the time, according to the Corps, and helped recapture Seoul, South Korea.
He and his wife, Betty, attended the dedication ceremony, at which 50 Marines from the depot's Weapons Training Company, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, were on hand when a plaque sporting the name "Willis Tower" was affixed to the control tower.
"I’ve always thought that being a Marine was special, I was glad to talk with the Marines today," Willis said, according to the release. "It means a lot to come be with Marines again. Having the tower dedicated to me and everything today was amazing. ... (And) seeing all of the Marines in formation and then thanking me, and I thanked them too, because that’s how Marines are."
About 12,000 Marines of the 1st Marine Division and a few thousand Army soldiers were vastly outnumbered when soldiers from the Republic of China’s Ninth Army Group surrounded them in the Chosin Reservoir. The fight lasted two weeks.
Willis later served as a drill instructor, according to the Corps.
"We wanted to honor (Willis)," Capt. Lukas Rebertus, who commands Chosin Rifle Range, said, according to the release. "Not many people would realize what that man did if they saw him on the street, so we wanted to make sure he was recognized for what he did so long ago.
"Watching him talk to the Marines, I noticed he really holds deeply that 'Once a Marine always a Marine' (belief). No matter when you get out, or what you do when you get out, you’re always a Marine."