Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - June 7, 2019

William - take 3

Although William Grimm died 28 years ago, chapters about his life continue to be written. The 28-year-old K-Stater was killed in Operation Desert Storm, but his legacy lives on.

A member of the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, Capt. William D. Grimm was a navigator for Spirit 03 - an AC 130 gunship. On Jan. 31, 1991, the crew of Spirit 03 received a distress call from U.S. Marines on the ground as they were returning to the ship after a successful night-time flight over Kuwait. Despite it then being daylight, and so a target of opportunity, Spirit 03 headed toward the Marines for support. Under heavy fire, Spirit 03 destroyed the enemy missile battery and rescued the Marines. The plane was then hit by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile and all 14 crew members of Spirit 03 died in the largest single loss by any Air Force unit during Operation Desert Storm.

I first wrote about William in November 2013, when I discovered an oak tree that had been planted in 1991 in his honor on the Kansas State University campus. I wrote about him again a year ago, when I learned that a bench had been installed on campus in front of Richard Myers Hall, the former Military Science Building. On the bench is a plaque that reads: �In Memoriam. Captain William D. Grimm, USAF. 13 October 1962-31 January 1991. KSU AFROTC Graduate. Killed in Action. Operation Desert Storm. Lest We Forget.�

Then, this past spring, I heard that country singer Tim Atwood has recently begun telling William�s story, too.

In his single, �I�ll Stand Up and Say So,� Atwood says he will stand and honor the flag, his country and the service men and women who can�t stand for themselves because of injury or death.

After one performance of the song in the summer of 2017, a woman gave Atwood a memorial bracelet she wore in honor of William. She had worn the bracelet, which she never removed from her arm, for 26 years. She felt that Atwood was the appropriate person to wear the bracelet and share William�s story with the world.

That woman was Stacy Britton, who attended the memorial service for Grimm and the other fallen airmen at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Walton Beach, Florida, where she was stationed with the First Operations Wing. Memorial bracelets had been made for the 14 fallen crew members. There was only one memorial bracelet left unclaimed by friends or family - William�s - so Britton claimed it and vowed to wear it forever.

That is, until she heard Atwood�s song. Atwood says he has not removed the bracelet since Britton gave it to him. In an article in countrynote.com, Atwood said, �I�ve worn it for a little over two years now and I never take it off. It�s a daily reminder of someone who fought and died for this country.�

In early March of this year, I received an email from Jed Dunham, who worked on special projects in K-State�s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs.

... I am writing today to continue the discussion that began last November when Tim Atwood sang his song, �I�ll Stand Up and Say So,� on the Mike Huckabee Show where Tim honors the sacrifice of Captain Grimm through his music ...

In the email, he also introduced William�s father Jim Grimm and me to Roxane Atwood, Tim�s wife, and we exchanged phone numbers.

The Atwoods have indicated an interest in doing some sort of documentary as a tribute to William. Roxane called and chatted with me about half an hour in late March. During our discussion, she mentioned how she would like to get William�s family together and perhaps travel to Kansas, where William is buried at the Fort Riley cemetery.

Although nothing has been firmed up, it�s obvious that William�s story has captured the hearts of many people. It prompted a quote from Scottish poet Thomas Campbell, who lived from 1777-1844, to come to mind:

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Left: In a YouTube video made in Nashville's "Larry's Country Diner," Atwood relates the story behind Grimm's bracelet he is wearing on his right wrist. Right: Memorial at Hurlburt Field in Florida. Photo from the Northwest Florida Daily News site nwfdailynews.com.

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