A Promise Kept

TEC-4 William C. “Billy” Owens, Jr. was the first Clarke County soldier to die on foreign soil during World War II.

On April 17, 1943, he died during a training accident in England. He was killed when his jeep overturned and caught on fire burning him to death. He was a member of the 29th Reconnaissance Troop, 88th Infantry Brigade, 29th Infantry Division.

His body was returned to Berryville and he was buried in Green Hill Cemetery.

He joined the Berryville National Guard soon after his graduation from Berryville High School in 1937. When the company was mustered into service in November, 1940, he was inducted into the Army. He trained is this country for almost two years before his unit was sent to England to prepare for the invasion of Europe.

Dr. Thomas C. Iden was a childhood friend of Billy. They had grown up, attended school together, and were best friends throughout Billy’s short life.

Dr. Iden died on April 2,2011.

Dr. lden believed his friend Billy deserved a VA-provided military marker for his grave. For almost two years, he had worked with Post Adjutant Bob Ferrebee to obtain a grave marker. However, since they could not locate any of Billy’s living immediate family and his military records were destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center, they had been unsuccessful in securing a Veterans Administration marker.

On the day before Dr. Iden died, he met with the Adjutant Bob Ferrebee and renewed his commitment to install a military marker on his friend’s grave. He was emphatic about his commitment and commented: “Are you going to get a VA marker for Billy, or am I going to have to buy one?”

You knew that Dr.lden was serious when he was willing to spend his own money for something.

The Adjutant took this final request of Dr. Tom as a command and arranged for Walls Monuments in Kearneysville, West Virginia, to design a granite marker similar to the ones provide by the Veterans Administration. The company agreed to provide the marker at cost-materials and labor only. Post 41’s Executive Committee recommended that the Post pay for the $150-marker and the membership approved the purchase at the May Legion meeting.

On June 8th, the marker was installed on Billy Owens’ grave in Green Hill Cemetery. His grave is now properly identified as that of a veteran who died in defense of our country. Dr. Tom, Post 41 has kept its promise to you and to your friend, Billy Owens.

You can rest in peace.

CDN Editor: This story originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the American Legion Post 41 newsletter The Post Dispatch


  1. sargewillis says:

    Great story, Bob Ferrebee should be proud and Dr. Iden would gratified to know one of our WWII heros received the proper grave stone. Yes, he was a hero, all the young men and women that died for our country, be it in training, accidents, or combat, they were willing to give their lives for the American way and should be honored! Thanks Bob for reminding us of their commitment to all of us that came after.

  2. I agree with your comment sargewillis. I was fond of Dr. Tom Iden and I praise the efforts of Bob Ferrebee, John Harris and American Legion Commander, Bill Overbey, on behalf of veterans.. My Uncle Bob Renshaw faught in the Battle of the Bulge in World War 2 and lost some hearing from the noice of bomb explosions. My 91 year old stepfather, Bev Whiting, is a World War 2 veteran and he me his first wife Lorene, while in the army in Oklahoma. Consider reading Tom Brokaw’s book called “The Greatest Generation”. George Baker and Walter Rutherford were in the navy during World War 2. Hammar Pierce has passed away and he faught during World War 2 and his army service is a legend. My grandfather, Dr. Daniel Parker Card, served in the US Army Medical Corps in both World War 1 and World War 2. Colonel Card died in the 1950’s, so I never met him. My father, Samuel Card, was an only child who grew up on army bases and General Mc Arthur wass kind to help him with his homework in the Phillipines.