ROTC Cadet and USM student Honored at All-American Bowl
Decorated combat veteran and University of Southern Maine Army ROTC Cadet James Williford is attending the 12th annual Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, on January 7, where he will be honored as a “Soldier Hero.”
Williford, an Oakland, Maine native who graduated from Messalonksee High School in 2001, is a sophomore history major at USM.
Williford’s journey into the Army occurred when the Air Force recruiter he was scheduled to see showed up late, and because of donuts.
“I was waiting outside the Air Force recruiter’s office,” Williford explained. “He was late getting to my appointment. The Army recruiter came in to work with a box of donuts and said, ‘Why don’t you come in and have a donut while you’re waiting?’” The rest, as they say, is history.
Williford, the second and youngest member of an Air Force family, enlisted at 18 at his home in Maine, went to basic training, then to additional training as a combat engineer.
Williford, who now lives in Gorham, spent two tours in Afghanistan and one tour in Iraq. During his deployment, to Iraq he earned a Purple Heart while his platoon was engaged in spotting and clearing improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He was shot in the side, the AK-47 round just missing his side armor plate and knocking him down.
“I thought I had tripped,” Williford said. “I didn’t even know I had been shot for 30 to 40 seconds.” The body armor stopped the round’s progress after it left his body.
During his last deployment, Williford was having a conversation with his commander, highlighting some things about the Army that frustrated him. “Why don’t you change it?” his commander asked. “Stay in and change it.”
So Williford started college at the University of Southern Maine, and enrolled in the Army ROTC program in the fall of 2010, with the aim of becoming an Army officer.
Williford and his wife Shannon, have three children: Alexis, 8; Nicholas, 6; and Jenna, 2. He will graduate and receive his commission as an Army lieutenant in May of 2014.