World War II veterans Bill Rico and Craig Carmichael were honored Wednesday May 3 by Liberty Township for their service in the war. The two being honored is rooted in the FIRST program from SourcePoint.
“FIRST is a service partnered with the Liberty Township fire department,” said Karen Waltermeyer, SourcePoint client services manager. “The goal of the program is to help seniors live safely and independently as possible in their own home.”
Waltermeyer said many times seniors would call 911 not for emergencies but to change a light bulb or help with something in the house. She said FIRST is designed to serve the needs of seniors who frequently rely on first responders for assistance with non-emergency issues.
“The commitment and passion of this program is having a positive impact on the community,” Waltermeyer said. “We’ve touched the lives of several hundred a year.”
Waltermeyer said seniors learn about the program through community events, referrals or from first responders.
In an email from Battalion Chief Bill Piwtorak, Liberty Township Fire Department, he said the idea of honoring Rico and Carmichael for their military service came from Firefighter Chalaco Clark as he worked with the FIRST service coordinator.
“He has been tasked to assist in ramping up the FIRST program,” Piwtorak said in an email. “Chalaco went out and met these two gentlemen.”
Piwtorak said as Clark developed a relationship with the two he found out they both served in the military during WWII.
“It wasn’t until they required the assistance of Liberty Township paramedics that Liberty Township became actively involved.” Piwtorak said. “Once the relationship began, Chalaco Clark took it upon himself to learn more about these men and about their service to our country. He developed this idea to honor these two men.”
Clark said the FIRST program is a holistic process of educating and connecting people to right services for their health needs. He said the program is a proactive EMS prevention program. ”It’s getting things fixed before becoming an emergency,” he said. “The program helps people live a quality life by going out there helping patients manage the cumbersome health care system.”
During the celebration honoring Rico and Carmichael, both received letters of appreciation from the commanding officer of the Navy Operational Support Center, Columbus, Ohio and resolutions of honor from township trustees for their service in WWII. In the future they are to receive United States flags that flew over the USS Arizona in Hawaii.
Carmichael said they both served at the Battle of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands but didn’t know each other at the time. Rico was on shore fighting the Japanese while Carmichael was on a ship anchored in the lagoon.
“In WWII the Marshall Islands was the first piece of real estate taken from Japan by the United States,” said Carmichael, a sailor in the US Navy. “I was in the Navy from March 6, 1943 to Dec 6, 1945. Two years, nine months and about four hours.”
Carmichael said he was part of the advanced radar team for the Marshall Islands.
Bill Rico said he served in the war as a Marine from 1942-1945. His boot camp was at Parris Island, North Carolina. From there he said he fought at the Marshall Islands and then onto Saipan and Iwo Jima.
Rico said out of a platoon of 32 Marines, he was one of six men to return home.
The two vets didn’t meet until 50 years later in Liberty Township, said Carmichael. He said been publishing a quarterly publication that centered around WWII stories.
Carmichael said he wrote about the Battle of Kwajalein from his vantage point aboard ship in his publican. He said about five years ago Rico, who fought in the battle, was sent the story by another vet. “Bill called me,” Carmichael said.
Carmichael said the two live within a couple of miles of each other but don’t see each other much because it’s not as easy for them to get around as it used to be.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.