Air Force veteran William “Bill” Casper of Rapid City has been appointed state chairman of the State Funeral for World War II Veterans organization.
On Labor Day in 2017, the State Funeral for World War II Veterans launched a nationwide petition drive to convince President Trump to designate a state funeral in Washington, D.C., for the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. This single state funeral would provide special recognition and serve as a final salute to the 16 million men and women who served in the armed forces from 1941 to 1945.
In total, 473 Medals of Honor were awarded to World War II servicemen. Only two of these recipients are still living — Hershel “Woody” Williams, U.S. Marine Corp corporal, of West Virginia and Charles Coolidge, U.S. Army technical sergeant of Tennessee.
“The United States has held many funerals for famous generals but never one for an enlisted man,” said Bill McNutt, co-founder and chairman. “We are working hard all across the country side by side with proven leaders like Bill Casper to make this State Funeral a reality.”
“Out of 16 million servicemen and women from World War II, only about 400,000 remain with us. They deserve special recognition at a State Funeral for one of their own,“ said Casper, the nephew of three World War II veterans and the cousin of two more.
A member of a Gold Star family, his Uncle Roy Sprister, 101st Airborne, 327th Glider Infantry, was killed on Christmas Day 1944 southwest of Bastogne.
“Bill brings his diverse background and proven leadership experience to the role of South Dakota chair,” said Don Ballard, a Medal of Honor recipient who served in Vietnam. “The National Board of Directors joins me in welcoming Bill Casper to our leadership.”
Casper served as an Air Force radar technician from 1959 to 1963. He holds degrees from Black Hills University and a Masters from Northern Arizona University.
Casper is now recruiting an eight-person State Board of Directors in South Dakota. Nominations should be emailed to email@example.com Self-nominations are welcome, as well.
Casper is also the chairman of the Veterans Honor Banner Project, which honors veterans from all conflicts by hanging banners in downtown Rapid City each year leading up to Veteran's Day. Last year 146 veterans were honored.
Casper has attended eight annual conferences on World War II at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and has provided a free lunch to numerous WW II Veterans and their families for the past seven years.
Ten South Dakotans have received the Medal of Honor, including WW II flying ace Joe Foss, who went on to become governor of South Dakota at age 39 and was the first commissioner of the American Football League.