Womacks story to be told in county building lobby display

Published 12:49 pm Friday, August 20, 2010

The county administration building built across from the historic county courthouse in Columbus is named for Bryant H. Womack. But there is no display in the building to tell who he is or why he was given that honor.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners recently voted unanimously to rectify that situation.

Here we are sitting in the Bryant H. Womack Building, said commissioner Ray Gasperson, and I have to admit that up until tonight, I didnt know his story.

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Womack was born and raised on a farm in Mill Spring, right on the Rutherford/ Polk County line. He was the son of George and Julie Womack and had three brothers and one sister. He grew up working as a farm laborer and picked peaches during the summer. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and riding bicycles.

Womack was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Korea as a private first class with the Medical Company of the 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division. During a firefight on March 12, 1952, near Sokso-ri, his unit began taking heavy casualties. Womack exposed himself to enemy fire in order to treat wounded soldiers.

When he was himself wounded, Womack refused medical treatment and continued to give aid to others. He was the last soldier to withdraw from the engagement and died of his injuries soon after. He was officially issued the Medal of Honor the next year, on January 12, 1953.

Aged 20 at his death, Womack was buried at Lebanon Methodist Church in his hometown of Mill Spring.

I would like to make a motion that we place a display giving his history in the lobby of the building, Gasperson said.

Commissioner Warren Watson agreed, and said that the actual Medal of Honor citation would be appropriate and useful in describing Womacks history.

The commissioners voted unanimously to instruct county manager Ryan Whitson to install a suitable display honoring Womack in the lobby of the Bryant H. Womack Justice and Administration Building.

Speaking to the commissioners, distinguished veteran Howard Greene, for whom the commissioners had just voted to name the new Polk County Department of Social Services Building, described how he met Womack during the Korean War.

I met him after I read in the Tryon Daily Bulletin that he was in the same Army camp I was in, Greene said. I found he was in a barracks just two or three down the row from mine. I went and introduced myself to him.

Greene, already a seasoned veteran of World War II, said Womack told him he was going to train to be a front line medic.

He said he wanted to be a medic because he couldnt stand the idea of killing, Greene said. I begged him not to do that. I had seen so many medics get killed. He wouldnt listen to me.

Greene said after they became friends, he would drive Womack home when they both had weekend passes. Womack always wanted to be let out at a big tree by a bridge over the Green River, and would walk home from there.

Greene recalled one night when the two soldiers were at the bus station in Tryon. The men issued a challenge to see who could do the most push-ups.

All the others quit at 25, Greene recalled. Bryant did 48 and then did the last two with just his right hand.

Sometime later, Womack finished his basic training and shipped out. He was killed near Sokso-ri, Korea on March 12, 1952. He was 20 years old.

Due to his bravery, a hospital at Fort Bragg was renamed the Womack Army Medical Center and a bridge and a building in Korea bear his name, in addition to the county administration building in his home town.

Ambrose Mills was asked to read for the county board the actual Medal of Honor citation issued Jan. 12, 1953 to Private First Class Bryant H. Womack, U.S. Army, Medical Company, 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.

The text of that citation follows:


Pfc. Womack distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Pfc.

Womack was the only medical aid man attached to a night combat patrol when sudden contact with a numerically superior enemy produced numerous casualties. Pfc. Womack went immediately to their aid, although this necessitated exposing himself to a devastating hail of enemy fire, during which he was seriously wounded.

Refusing medical aid for himself, he continued moving among his comrades to administer aid. While he was aiding 1 man, he was again struck by enemy mortar fire, this time suffering the loss of his right arm. Although he knew the consequences should immediate aid not be administered, he still refused aid and insisted that all efforts be made for the benefit of others that were wounded.

Although unable to perform the task himself, he remained on the scene and directed others in first aid techniques. The last man to withdraw, he walked until he collapsed from loss of blood, and died a few minutes later while being carried by his comrades.

The extraordinary heroism, outstanding courage, and unswerving devotion to his duties displayed by Pfc. Womack reflect the utmost distinction upon himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of the U.S. Army.