A new statue on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Dahlonega Campus recognizes the heroic actions of alumnus Michael J. Williams, who received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism during the Vietnam War.
The Distinguished Service Cross, presented to members of the U.S. Army, is the nation's second-highest award for military valor, behind only the Medal of Honor.
A top student and cadet, Williams was one of the first three cadets to receive a full scholarship from the U.S. Army. He was Golf Company commander during his senior year and successfully led his unit to recognition as Honor Company, a coveted position that has been a tradition in the university's Boar's Head Brigade for more than 60 years. A Distinguished Military Graduate, Williams earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1967 and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
He deployed to Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and, in 1968, was leading a platoon near Cu Chi, Vietnam, when his unit came under fire. Williams, who had been promoted to first lieutenant, used a grenade to destroy two enemy machine gun nests. His action earned him four medals, including the Distinguished Service Cross, and is depicted in the statue.
The bronze statue, created by David Venell, depicts Williams as a young first lieutenant in Army combat uniform, tossing a grenade, and is mounted upon a tiered mahogany base with accompanying plaques.
The statue was commissioned and donated by retired Col. Parker Miller III, a former roommate and lifelong friend of Williams. Miller, a decorated combat veteran and retired Marine aviator, spoke at the recent dedication about his friend's quality and character, from the perspective of a close friend and a soldier. Also on hand for the ceremony were Williams, his friends and family members, UNG President Bonita Jacobs, and university representatives.
Williams is retired from Kellogg Corp. and lives in Macon, Georgia.
The Capt. Michael J. Williams Trophy is permanently displayed in the atrium of the Brooks Pennington Jr. Military Leadership Center. In addition to honoring Williams, the statue serves as a permanent trophy for the Boar's Head Brigade Honor Company, an award that recognizes the best performance in a variety of athletic, academic and military standards. The first Honor Company to be recognized on the trophy was UNG's Echo Company, for the unit's fall 2014 performance.
UNG is one of only six senior military colleges in the country. The others are the Citadel, Norwich University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Military Institute, and Virginia Tech. The university's ROTC program, housed on the university's Dahlonega Campus, comprises about 800 cadets. UNG, with more than 130 years of experience educating future leaders, is designated as a University System of Georgia leadership institution and as The Military College of Georgia.
With more than 16,000 students, UNG is one of the state's largest public universities and is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 25 public universities in the South. The regional, multi-campus university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to professional and doctoral programs.