Veterans Who Make a Difference: There are many ways to make a positive impact on the lives of veterans and their families. We recognize those who work so diligently to make a difference throughout California and salute their commitment to the veteran population. Do you know someone worthy of recognition? Send us the details: PAO@CalVet.ca.gov.
For World War II veteran Bill Thomas, a lifetime of service came naturally. He has volunteered countless hours to serve veterans and his local community.
“I can do it … I did it,” says Thomas. “Those are my famous seven words.”
He has spent more than 40 years working on behalf of his fellow service members. For him, it’s a no-brainer. If something needs to be done, he’s there to help. And that’s how it has always been. From Veterans Day parades and ceremonies to community food drives and efforts to support the troops, it’s all in a day’s work.
Thomas is a past commander of both the VFW Post 4048 and American Legion Post 857 in Seal Beach, Calif. He was editor of the local VFW newsletter for eight years, but he’s best known for his column, “Veterans Voices,” which is published in three weekly newspapers. He writes about his personal experiences and about a variety of issues that impact veterans.
A World War II vet and Purple Heart recipient, Thomas enlisted in the Army on February 8, 1943, at the age
He served in North Africa in 1943 and served 565 days in combat, fighting with a Field Artillery Battalion in Italy, France, Germany and Austria. He started out as a radio-telephone wireman, laying hundreds of miles of telephone wire across Italy. He then became an Artillery Forward Observer and in this role was involved in amphibious landings on the Anzio Beachhead in Italy in January 1944 and in Southern France on August 15, 1944. He received an Honorable Discharge in October, 1945.
He has organized annual Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, and conducted the flag retirement ceremony at seven local elementary schools. For many years, he helped gather donations to send to service members in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait through the “Support Our Troops” initiative sponsored by Grace Community Church. But his proudest accomplishment was spearheading the effort to design and install a 36-by-32-inch bronze plaque honoring all military veterans at the entrance to the Seal Beach Pier.
Seal Beach Veterans Memorial Plaque
The plaque designed by Thomas reads: “In commemoration of all the military veterans of the U. S. A. of the past, present, and future who served in the six branches of the service since the Revolutionary War. Let’s remember and forever honor all military veterans, including our Prisoners of War and the Missing in Action. Men and women, living, deceased, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine, POWs and MIAs.”
The design incorporates a map to designate our sovereign country, stripes to indicate the 13 original colonies, stars for each of the 50 states and a large circle to denote the world in which we serve. It was dedicated and donated to the City of Seal Beach on Memorial Day, 2012.
Through his volunteer efforts, Thomas has left his mark on the local community and he has done much to shape the impressions of his community and future generations of service members. CalVet thanks you for your service!