More Than Life Itself
Diane Stark (McConnell) Sanfilippo

Prologue

Having very little knowledge of Billy's 'professional life, I put in a query on the 25th Division 1/14th website hoping that I would receive at least one reply from a soldier who had served with him, and who remembered him, and what an incredible feat he had achieved in the days immediately prior to his death. The first reply came from an officer who had been in the 1/14th at the same time, however he did not know Billy, but knew of him, and he told me of a retired officer who remembered him well, and would like to give him my email address. Well, that was Dave! At the time, Billy was senior to Dave, who graduated with honors from the United State Military Academy at West Point, and his career was the envy of any officer as Dave achieved the ultimate goal, and retired the 2nd highest ranking officer in the United States Army. I was astonished by Dave's memories of my young lieutenant, but I will let Dave tell you in the Epilogue below. Thank you, Dave, from the bottom of my heart. You cannot begin to know how it means to me and to Billy's children to know that their father was the 'best lieutenant'!

Two other soldiers also emailed me and both had served in C. Co., both in Hawaii and in Vietnam. Both were complimentary with their memories, and one, who was in Billy's rifle platoon, said that he was the best Lieutenant he had ever served under, and that there was not a dry eye in the company on the day of the Memorial Service. All of C. Company was there and there was not one soldier who did not want to go and show his respect for the 'best lieutenant'. Later, in the book, I will explain, as well as I know how exactly what my handsome husband achieved in those three days immediately before his death. I doubt if any Lieutenant has ever done what Billy did for his platoon, his company, the 1/14th, the 25th Division, and the United States Army.

He was indeed, the best lieutenant in the entire U.S. Army!


FOREWORD

My only visit to North Georgia College came in 1997. Though I went by invitation to speak at North Georgia’s Awards Review, I was more emotionally drawn to make the trip to fulfill, in a small but personal way, an obligation to many of North Georgia’s graduates who impacted my life. Thus, I paused again in 1997 to remember an extraordinary young lieutenant from 1965 whose brief example and untimely death have remained vivid reminders of selfless service, duty performed, and sacrifice.

Lieutenant Bill McConnell loved North Georgia. He was the first of many I was to meet from that rich tradition of military service, and his example of all that North Georgia holds dear helped me immensely in the preparation of my remarks. I remembered him distinctly, as I have recalled and reflected on his qualities as an officer, qualities that I have tried to emulate over the decades since our service together in the 1-14th Infantry, the “Golden Dragons.” He came to the battalion with an infectious grin, a verve for the profession, and a warm humility that drew the younger lieutenants to him. I was one of the second lieutenants who looked with great admiration at this confident first lieutenant, who seemed to be so good and so willing to help. “Call me Bill” was his first response when the junior lieutenants upon their initial meeting greeted him with a salute, a “Sir”, and ”Golden Dragons.” We all liked him immediately.

Bill’s rifle company was short its complement of officers, and he assumed so many roles and responsibilities so as to leave officer, noncommissioned officer, and soldier in awe. Regardless of the demands, and there were many, he never failed to find the time to talk, answer a question, or to help. He was a role model. I remember him today, I remember our last conversation late at night at the conclusion of his latest triumph of leadership, and I remember the shock of his death the following morning.

I only knew him for four months, some 37 years ago. I have never forgotten him or his example of what an officer can hope to be. His tangible successes as an officer and his personal qualities as a leader distinguished him. Though his death diminished those who knew him, his memory has continued to enrich all of us who carry his imprint. I wanted the young men and women of North Georgia to know of Bill McConnell, and of his service, legacy, and sacrifice. He was to die before he was a captain, before he could command a company, before so much potential could be realized; but he is remembered for what he did with the time he had. I hope they remember him.

For those who knew and served with him, Bill McConnell left much more than memories. He left us his example. I am blessed to have known him.

This is not every man’s story. This is Bill McConnell’s. Thank you, Diane, and Thanks, Bill. “Golden Dragons, Sir.”

David A. Bramlett General - United States Army, Retired


Appendix

Welcome to My Dream Dedication and Thanks Prologue and Appendix
Chapter 01
We Meet
Chapter 02
Our First Date
Chapter 03
Jan – Feb 1961
Chapter 04
The Copper Mine
Chapter 05
Our First Fight
Chapter 06
We Get Married
Chapter 07
Our Honeymoon
Chapter 08
No More Secrets
Chapter 09
Billy’s Surprise
Chapter 10
Our First Home
Chapter 11
Fertile Valley
Chapter 12
Summer Camp
Chapter 13
Late Summer 1961
Chapter 14
Fall 1961
Chapter 15
Pineapple Sandwiches
Chapter 16
Our First Christmas
Chapter 17
Our First Anniversary
Chapter 18
Our Son is Born
Chapter 19
Turning Point
Chapter 20
Graduation – 1962
Chapter 21
Summer – 1962
Chapter 22
Fall - 1962
Chapter 23
2nd Lieutenant William E. McConnell
Chapter 24
Christmas 1962
Chapter 25
The Camellia Garden Apartments
Chapter 26
Officer’s Basic
Chapter 27
The O.C.S. School - Early Spring 1963
Chapter 28
Spring 1963 – Airborne School
Chapter 29
June 1963 – Last Trip to N.G.C.
Chapter 30
Late Summer – 1963
Chapter 31
November – 1963
Chapter 32
Early Spring 1964
Chapter 33
July 1964 – The Funeral
Chapter 34
The Aftermath
Chapter 35
Home at Last – 1964
Chapter 36
Life Goes On
Chapter 37
Billy’s 24th Birthday
Chapter 38
Thanksgiving - 1964
Chapter 39
Ranger School
Chapter 40
Christmas – 1964
Chapter 41
The Wedding
Chapter 42
Our Second Honeymoon
Chapter 43
Ranger William E. McConnell
Chapter 44
Our Second Child is Born
Chapter 45
Our Journey, 1st Stop, Griffin
Chapter 46
Our Journey 2nd Stop, Atlanta - Goodbye Varsity
Chapter 47
Our Journey – Memphis by Suppertime
Chapter 48
Next Stop – Okalahoma City
Chapter 49
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Chapter 50
Pike’s Peak to Denver
Chapter 51
Too Much Snow – Back to Albuquerque
Chapter 52
Petrified Forest and Painted Desert
Chapter 53
Grand Canyon National Park
Chapter 54
California Here We Come!
Chapter 55
Lost in L.A.
Chapter 56
Southern Hospitality
California Style
Chapter 57
Seafood, More Heat, and Sears
Chapter 58
Disneyland
Chapter 59
More Heat and Darby’s Rangers
Chapter 60
Bon Voyage!
Chapter 61
On the High Seas
Chapter 62
Our Voyage Continues
Chapter 63
Aloha! Hawaii
Chapter 64
Paradise and More
Chapter 65
Sunset Beach
Chapter 66
Paradise at Ke-Nui
Chapter 67
More Adventures in Paradise
Chapter 68
Even More Adventures in Paradise
Chapter 69
Mischief in Paradise
Chapter 70
The Punchbowl Ceremony
Chapter 71
Labor Day Cookout and the Tsunami
Chapter 72
Drums of War
Chapter 73
Bloody September
Chapter 74
The Nightmare Continues
Chapter 75
The Long Journey Home
Chapter 76
The Decision
Chapter 77
Rest in Peace, My Darling Billy
 
March 24th
Last Page
September 18, 2008    


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