It was no accident Pfc. William Ouellette Jr. chose to receive his transition award at an Observation Post located inside the Demilitarized Zone within 25 meters of the Military Demarcation Line. "Observation Post Ouellette" was named in honor of another private first class -a kinsman awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the early stages of the Korean War.
Eighteen Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division received the Medal of Honor for valorous acts during in the Korean War. Pfc. Joseph Ouellette was awarded his medal posthumously for service in the southern most part of the Peninsula from Aug. 31 - Sept. 3, 1950.
William Ouellette, a distant relative of Joseph as well as a "Command Post of the Future" operator with 210th Fires Brigade headquarters, is slated to receive his award Feb. 12. The Lenawee, Mich. native was unaware of his relative's heroic actions as he grew up.
"I found out about it when I was here in Korea," he said. Col. Brian McKiernan, former 210th commander, told him about the OP that shares his name. "He called me 'OP Ouellette' and told me the story about my uncle," William Ouellette recalled.
Joseph Ouellette, who entered military service from his native Lowell, Mass. was the son of the brother of William Ouellette's great grandfather. But the 210th private never heard any stories or references to his kinsman's heroic actions in Korea until he was assigned to Camp Casey last year. Now nearing the end of his tour, William Ouellette is extremely happy his assignment brought him closer to his heritage.
"After Col. McKiernan told me about it I asked my father if he knew about our possible relationship to the Joseph Ouellette who had received the Medal of Honor in Korea, and he told me that he thought he was an uncle to us," he said. As far as William Ouellette knows, he is the first relative to visit Observation Post Ouellette.
"Although I did not know much about Joseph before I came to Korea I will spread the story to all my relatives," he said. "Joseph did so much to save the lives of his fellow Soldiers. I am proud to be related to him."
According to the official citation Pfc. Joseph Ouellette's actions with the 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division included voluntarily exposing himself numerous times to withering enemy fire as he tried to gather supplies and information to allow his unit to continue to fight.
"Pfc. Joseph Ouellette was fighting during some of the most brutal and desperate combat of the War - when the Division had first got here," said retired Col. William Alexander, the director of the 2nd ID Museum. On one occasion, upon leaving the perimeter, Joseph Ouellette was attacked by an enemy combatant as he attempted to gather supplies and ammunition from enemy dead. After defeating and killing him in hand to hand combat, the young American returned to the perimeter and continued the fight. After sustaining a severe wound, he continued to resist until the end of his life.
William Ouellette carries with him the strong sense of devotion to duty and patriotism personified by his heroic kinsman.
"He is the senior 'Command Post of the Future' operator in the brigade", said Staff Sgt. Terrin Damico of the brigade operations shop. "He played a pivotal role in the brigade command post operation and will be greatly missed."
William Ouellette will soon depart Warrior Country for his next assignment in Fort Bliss, Texas, where he will be joined by his wife of just over a year.