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Veterans’ Voices
Honoring our men and women in uniform



Special to the Tribune-Herald

e was just 17 years old when Meridian
resident Jeff Williams decided to join
the U.S. Army. With adventure calling,
the Wichita, Kansas, native left his
hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, after he got
his general education degree.
Fleeing a rough home life, Williams
enrolled in Coco Beach, Florida, in June 1967
and was promptly sent to Fort Jackson, South
Carolina for his basic training. His training as
an advanced personnel specialist at Fort Knox,
Kentucky was uneventful, and Williams learned
all the skills he needed.

Instead of a personnel specialist, the job
in reality was more like a company clerk. “I
typed a lot of discharge papers — including
my own,” he said. His first duty station was
in Fort Benning, Georgia. His job included
keeping personnel files up to date and writing
DD214s discharge papers. He was there less
than a year before he got a new assignment to
report to SHAPE, or Supreme Headquarters
Allied Powers Europe. It is the highest military
command in the world, he said.
SHAPE is one of two North Atlantic Treaty
Organizatin’s (NATO) commands, with this
one located in Casteau near Mons, Belgium.
It includes 29 member-states from around the
world who have pledged to respond to armed
attacks of any of its member countries — with
force, if necessary. On any given day, you can
see a variety of uniforms of member countries
from around the world.
Williams lived off base in Mons, Belgium,
with his wife, Dee Fagerburg. They married in
1970, and they spent many a day touring Europe
and surrounding countries, including Germany
and Switzerland.
His favorite was Austria. “I walked the
path that Julie Andrews walked in ‘The Sound
of Music,’” he said. “It’s the most beautiful
country I’ve ever seen.”
Williams said the locals spoke Flemish,
a form of French. Since his wife spoke the
language, they had no problems. “That made it
a lot easier,” he said.
A specialist 5, Williams spent most of his
time at SHAPE and traveling with his wife.

Meridian resident
Jeff Williams
served in the
U.S. Army as
a personnel
Photo by Mary Drennon

In fact, he was honorably discharged in Europe,
where the couple continued to tour after he left
the military in 1972. He spent three years in the
Reserves but was never called up.
After their tour, Williams came back to
Bloomington, then Springfield, Massachusetts,
then used the G.I. Bill to attend college at the
University of Houston, and later the Missouri State
University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in
business administration.
Williams went into business for himself in
import/exports, traveling to Mexico to buy goods
that were sold throughout the United States. At one
point, his Mexican imports were available in every
Kmart in the nation.
Williams parted from his wife but they
remained friends. They had one daughter together,
and she went on to earn a medical doctorate
degree. Today, he also has two grandchildren.

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Williams decided to take it easy for a while, but
later went to work selling insurance with his father
in Houston. He also worked in upper management
in the hotel/motel industry.
All was well for a time, then Williams’ health
started to decline. He started falling. He had
serious heart issues. He had home health care five
days a week, but eventually decided to retire at
the Hilltop on Main in Meridian, where he’s doing
much better healthwise.
As for his military experience, Williams is
glad he served. “It actually took a boy and made
a man,” he said of his Army years. “I grew up. It
was very good for me; I was lucky. I had a lot of
good assignments.”
“Veterans’ Voices,” featuring stories about Central
Texas veterans, publishes every Sunday. To suggest
a story about a Central Texas veteran, please email“Veterans’ Voices” is
proudly sponsored by Johnson Roofing.

At Johnson Roofing, we believe in America and proudly stand behind the men and women of our armed forces.