On Aug. 1, a crowd of hospital and state employees, veterans, local dignitaries and others gathered to honor Pvt. Jewett Williams. He was finally given the dignified and moving ceremony he deserved, but never received, when he died almost a hundred years earlier.
“We are here to help correct the record,” said Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Cameron Smith, “to ensure that this Civil War soldier receives the final honors he earned through his service.”
Jewett Williams was, in the words of Oregon State Hospital Superintendent Greg Roberts, a “veteran who, like so many others, time and society had forgotten.”
“We don’t know if his war experiences played a part in his psychiatric hospitalization,” Roberts said. “But we do know that like many veterans of today that have returned home struggling with mental illness and PTSD, he should not and will not be forgotten.”
Sen. Courtney spoke of Williams’ final days.
“He was a son, a brother, a husband and a father. At the end of his life, however, he was alone. He was alone and institutionalized here,” Courtney said. “While he spent only three months here at Oregon State Hospital, when he died, nobody came. Nobody came. Nobody came to honor him. Nobody came to take him home. Nobody came. Until today.”
At the end of the ceremony, a blessing was said, and the cremains of Pvt. Jewett Williams were transferred into the solemn and respectful hands of the Patriot Guard Riders, who will escort him along the 3,000-mile journey with honor and care.
All that remains of Jewett Williams’ time in Oregon is a hollow brass tube, which now occupies the space that once held his cremated ashes. It is a symbol that he is gone, but not forgotten. It is a symbol that he has gone home.