In 2013, Congress established the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission to develop and promote educational and commemorative programs that honor the role of the United States in World War I. Dr. Billy Wells, senior vice president for leadership and global engagement at the University of North Georgia (UNG), has been tapped to chair the six-member Georgia World War I Centennial Commission.
In coordination with the national effort, the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal established the Georgia commission to plan events, educate Georgians, and encourage local observances.
"The centennial of World War I offers an opportunity for Georgians to learn about and commemorate the sacrifices of their predecessors, and to understand how the events of 100 years ago have affected the state, our nation, its people and the world," said Dr. Tom Jackson, Heritage Communications executive at the University System of Georgia and executive director of the Georgia World War I Commission.
At UNG, Wells is responsible for leadership initiatives with special emphasis on military programs and he supervises the Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies. Additionally, he manages international programs and engagement activities for the university through the Center for Global Engagement, and is responsible for the University Press of North Georgia and its support of scholarly publications across the institution. Wells also is a retired Army colonel and a former professor of military science at UNG.
His awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal. He was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two battle stars and the Saudi Arabian and Kuwait Liberation Medals for service in Desert Shield/Desert Storm and has earned the Air Assault Badge, Expert Infantry Badge and Ranger Tab. He is also a Military Free Fall and Master Parachutist.
"During World War I, Georgia was home to more training camps than any other state and contributed more than 100,000 men and women to the war effort by its end in 1918," Wells said. "I am honored to serve on the commission that will help honor those who have served and recognize the enormous impact Georgia played."
Other commission members include Scott D. Delius, Atlanta; Rick Elder, Sylvania; Samuel G. Friedman, Atlanta; Thomas Lacy, Peachtree City (vice-chair); and Dr. John Morrow, Athens.
Commissioner Monique Seefried of Atlanta is the federal commissioner responsible for liaison with the Georgia World War I Centennial Commission, among other states.
In January 2016 she was decorated as a Chevalier of France's Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honor) by France's Ambassador to the United States, Gérard Araud, at the embassy residence. The Legion d'Honneur is France's highest order of distinction.
More information on Georgia's role in World War I and future events and activities of the Georgia WWI Commission are available at www.worldwar1centennial.org.