At age 18, he attended Marion Military Institute in South Alabama where he became Col. of Cadets. When he joined the Army, he became a Golden Knight, a member of the elite Army Parachute Demonstration Team. In the entire U.S. Army, there were only 40 selected for that team. He loved to free fall parachute. He was on that team for 4 years. Following that, he attended the officer candidate school. He, then, was commissioned into the Army Corp of Engineers.
The following year, he tested for the Elite Special Forces. He passed that test and was also Ranger qualified and underwater qualified. He was a member of the 5th Group Special Forces. He also saw service with the 82nd Airborne Regiment and the 101st.
During his service in Vietnam, he was highly decorated. He received 4 Bronze Stars, 2 with V device; the first he received for cutting a landing zone in the jungle while under enemy fire. He received the South Vietnamese Cross of Galantry with Palm for evacuating a landing ship tanker full of South Vietnamese civilians. He said that wasn’t so bad, because on the final sweep they found some ice cream and beer on board and as it was going to be blown up any way, they took it with them. He received the Army Commendation Medal of Valor that was awarded for clearing a minefield to get American tanks out. He was wounded twice, but declined the Purple Heart because he felt that he “couldn’t accept an award for being injured while he was sending boys home in body bags.”
Academically, he was awarded a Bachelors degree in Engineering from the University of Nebraska. He earned a first Masters degree in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. His second Masters degree was in Military Art and Science from Command and General Staff College. His third Masters degree was awarded by the Air War College in International Relations.
In 1963, Bill married for the first time and he and Mary had three children: William Abernathy Wise, Jr., Theresa Virginia Wise, and James Armony Wise IV. He is also survived by 6 grandchildren.
In December 1978, Bill retired from the Army after 26 years of service. His old Brigade Commander then offered him a job as a project manager in Saudi Arabia. One week later, he was in Riyad working for an operations and maintenance company, Pacific Architects and Engineers. Seven years later, he was transferred to a project in Zaragossa, Spain to maintain the U.S. Air Force base there. While there, he was promoted to Vice President of the company for Europe.
In 1985, he changed companies to Holmes and Narver Services, Inc. and took up the position of Project Manager in the Sinai Desert to provide operations and maintenance facilities to the Multi-National Force and Observers (MFO), which was the peacekeeping force set up by President Jimmy Carter to monitor the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel after the Camp David Accords. He was now Vice President for the Middle East.
At this point, he married Christina Douglas in the Church of St. Lazaras in Larnaca on the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean. After 9 happy years in the Sinai, he reached the mandatory retirement age for ex pat workers overseas and returned to the U.S.
He became project manager at the Department of Enegy in Grand Junction, Colorado. The project was to demil the Yellow Cake area which had been a part of the Manhattan Project. He then became project manager at the Center for Domestic Prepardeness in Anniston, Alabama. After several years there, he went back to work for Bevil Agua Research and Development Company in Huntsville, Alabama in the Ethics Department.
At 77 years old, he retired and spent his remaining years perfecting Bill’s Bunker, which houses his military memorabilia.
Memorial services are planned for 2 p.m. Sunday, October 15, 2023 at Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Payne with military honors. The family will receive friends from 1 p.m. until the 2 p.m. hour of service. The family is accepting flowers or suggests memorial contributions be made to the St. Joseph’s Indian School, PO Box 326, Chamberlain, SD 57326.
Wilson Funeral Home and Crematory of Fort Payne is in charge of arrangements.