Carthage Veteran Bill Henson, now 86, spent several years in the U.S. Naval Reserve starting in 1949.
On Thursday, Oct. 19, family, friends, Carthage veterans and employees of Avalon Hospice came together in Henson's home to thank him for his service.

Carthage Veteran Bill Henson, now 86, spent several years in the U.S. Naval Reserve starting in 1949.
On Thursday, Oct. 19, family, friends, Carthage veterans and employees of Avalon Hospice came together in Henson's home to thank him for his service.
“We call it our Hospice for Heroes program,” said Donnie McGee, Hospice Care Consultant Director of the Avalon Hospice office in Carthage. “So when we have a veteran of the service, we like to do everything we can to make sure that veteran has the utmost respect, dignity and quality of care. This is the least we can do for our veterans that came home.”
Members of the Carthage VFW Post 2950 brought a full honor guard into Henson's living room, and State Rep. Cody Smith presented Henson with a Missouri House Proclamation honoring him.
“It was a surprise to me, I didn't know they were going to do this,” Henson said after some of the crowd cleared out of his living room. “It was nice to see a lot of my friends. I've never had a color guard in my house. I think they did a good job, thank you.”

Photo on the wall
On one wall of Henson's living room is a large black and white photograph of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Valley Forge, with her flight deck crammed with aircraft of all sizes.
The Valley Forge transported aircraft from the U.S. to Japan and Korea during the Korean War.
Prior to that war, Henson made his first trip to sea as a naval reservist aboard the ship in 1949.
“My mom had to sign papers for me to join the Naval Reserves in 1948,” Henson said. “She was trying to get rid of me. I was 17 at the time.We served one night a week and we had to do cruises. In 1949, I cruised for two weeks on the USS Valley Forge. I had an uncle who said take it and try it and see if you like it. If you like it you can't beat it, if you don't like it it's heck. I took it and I decided I didn't want in, but I went on several cruises.”
Henson said the photo on the wall is for his great grandson.
“He is into tanks, ships, guns,” Henson said. “He can tell you what kind of guns are on the Valley Forge, but I can't. Also tanks and stuff, he knows all about them, and that's the reason the picture is there, I got it for him.”

Living and serving
Henson continued living in Jasper County while serving in the reserves.
Henson worked in construction, building homes, and in 1958 he went to work for Joplin Cement.
In 1959, he partnered with two friends and bought the commercial division of Joplin Cement and ran that, while continuing to build houses.
“We went and formed a partnership and bought out our part of it and we all worked together and stayed together,” Henson said. “We'd build houses on weekends. We moonlighted, built houses, hung ornamental iron and garage doors. It was right after World War II and you couldn't buy a lot of things. We stayed busy.”
He continued to serve in the naval reserves, but his service was not without some confusion and challenges.
“I was considered an ME3, a Metalsmith Third Class,” Henson recalled. “I'd go on ship and I was supposed to know how to weld and be a metalsmith. But I'd put in for welding school, and they had some other guys that worked at a steel company over in Ozark. And they would go to school and they'd send me aboard a ship. The never sent me to school for it.”
In 1969, he and his partners bought the industrial side of Joplin Cement, all the while continuing in construction.

Explosive memory
Henson recalled a memorable cruise on a U.S. Navy destroyer escort converted to carry frogmen for assaulting beaches.
His ship left Norfolk, Virginia and cruised up to the Potomac River and docked next to President Harry Truman's boat, the Holy Cow.
Then as the ship returned to port, the crew was preparing it for dry-docking.
“So they dropped depth charges off the back of it and they went off about 10 feet under water,” Henson recalled. “The back of that ship bounced up and there was asbestos dust in those old ships. It shook so bad you couldn't see anything in there. It didn't damage the ship but it gave it a pretty good test.”