Salvation Army volunteer explains why he rings each year

By Carolyn Drinkard

Special to The Watchman

IMG_1970It was late Jan. 1945, in Belgium. Most people thought World War II was winding down, when suddenly, the German army tried to cut through the Allied forces in a manner that would turn the tide of the war in Hitler’s favor. The Allies prevailed in a fierce battle that would forever be known as the “Battle of the Bulge”, the costliest action ever fought by the U.S. Army, which suffered over 100,000 casualties.

After the Battle, life in this region became even difficult. The bitter cold froze the gasoline in the engines of all the vehicles, making it impossible for trucks, carrying much-needed supplies, to get to this area. The soldiers had stopped Hitler’s advances, only to suffer even more from the bone-chilling cold.

In a hospital in Leige, Belgium, a young American x-ray technician from Thomasville, Alabama, worried. He knew that the Americans were running out of food and medical supplies. The hospital was frozen in, and heating supplies were being rationed. Some patients and soldiers were already suffering frostbite. As the situation grew more dire by the hour, the Americans prayed for a miracle.

That miracle came in the form of Salvation Army volunteers who “rigged up” steam engines and pulled trailers to this area, loaded with life-saving supplies.  The steam engines may have been slow, but they did not freeze, so the volunteers were able to make it to the hospital with supplies that saved the desperate people.

That young x-ray technician from Thomasville was William Alex Hill. He would survive and return to Thomasville, but he would never forget his brush with death.  Hill often told this story to his young son, Bill, giving the Salvation Army full credit for saving, not only his own life, but also the lives of the other soldiers.

“That’s why I ring,” explained Bill Hill, a retired educator, who has volunteered for over 30 years. “Every year, when it was time to ring, Dad and Mom would volunteer many times. They always encouraged me to ring and to give, too.”

Bill Hill, who served as Director of Youth Services for many years before retiring, also taught history and coached in the Montgomery area.

“I have always encouraged my students and my athletic teams to volunteer with the Salvation Army,” he stated. “I would tell them the story of the Battle of the Bulge and follow up with what happened to Daddy after that Battle. I still ring every year, because I know what the Salvation Army has done for so many others.”

If you would be willing to volunteer to help “do the most good”, please call the Salvation Army Store at 636-9840.