Patient Bill “Sarge” Tucker of New Castle attended his 75th Memorial Day Parade in Wilmington on Friday, May 30th. He served as a messenger as he sat in his wheelchair, quiet and dignified, dressed in his highly decorated military uniform, reminding us that Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring. At the same time, he told everyone that he was there thanks to Delaware Hospice, conveying the message that hospice represents choice and quality of life.
Sarge joined the Air Corps at 18 years old in 1943 and was sent directly to Europe where he served in Italy and Germany during World War II. He returned in 1947 but remained in the Air Force Reserves for 43 years, supporting military efforts through the Korean War, Bay of Pigs, and the Vietnam War. He helped establish the 46th Aerial Port Squadron and served there as First Sergeant.
Sarge earned high honors and a reputation for excellence and discipline. The Master Sergeant William J. Tucker Diamond Award was established to recognize members of the 46th Aerial Port Squadron who display “the high standards set by one of the unit’s “Founding Fathers, “ and the first 46 APS First Sergeant, William J. Tucker. The person selected annually for this award must exemplify the highest standards of military dress and appearance, fulfill the Air Force core values, and convey an honest spirit of patriotism.”
His strong sense of patriotism was established at an early age with the role model of his father who also served in the armed services. Sarge marched in his first Memorial Day Parade at the age of 8, playing his trombone, and hasn’t missed one since except for the years he was abroad in WWII. When asked which parade was the most memorable, he replied, “I guess this one.” Sarge has been a Delaware Hospice patient since February, and didn’t expect to make it to this one. When his nurse, Nancy, heard of his history of parades, she didn’t hesitate to assure him, “we’ll get you to that parade, don’t worry!’
U.S. Senator Joe Biden honored Sarge in his remarks: “I want to say something about a guy I find to be the epitome of what my father’s generation was. Bill “Sarge” Tucker is sitting over here in his uniform, and this is his 75th Memorial Day Parade in Wilmington. “He represents everything that we hold dear. His is a true definition of patriotism, not a phony patriotism of ‘flag waving’ and letting everyone else do the work. This is a guy who is here with his friends from Delaware Hospice; a guy who insisted on coming to this parade.
“I’ve been an admirer of Sarge for a long time, but I mean this from the bottom of my heart. You are everything this nation stands for. Whenever you were called, you answered the call and you never, never, ever forgot. While millions of people have confused Memorial Day with a holiday as opposed to a day of solemn memory, you have never forgotten the folks you left behind, or the ones who came home with you. And you have continued to think of every new generation of Veterans.
“I told Sarge, ‘Thanks for being here today,’ and he said, ‘I wouldn’t be here but for my Delaware Hospice nurse, Nancy, and my wife, Rita.’
“I told the folks from Delaware Hospice, if there are angels in heaven, they are all from hospice.”