Museum's docent honored at depot's Chapel
By Lance Cpl. Bridget M. Keane
| | January 17, 2013
San Diego --
Family and friends gathered at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Chapel to pay their respects to one of the Command Museum’s most beloved and outgoing characters, retired 1st Sgt. William “Billy” F. Westmoreland, during a memorial service Jan. 11.
Westmoreland was a volunteer docent at the Command Museum. He passed away Dec. 10, 2012. Those who had the pleasure of knowing him shared stories about their experiences with him and about his devotion to his family, friends, the museum and the Marine Corps.
“We considered Bill to be the most knowledgeable (docent) when it came to Marine Corps history and traditions; he was our ‘go to’ guy,” said retired Col. Lynn A. Stuart, executive director, MCRD San Diego Museum Historical Society. “He was like a walking encyclopedia of Marine Corps knowledge.”
Born Sept. 5, 1936, the Louisville, Ky. native’s love for the Marine Corps started when he took the oath in October 1953. He served at various duty stations throughout his career, which included tours in Vietnam and Korea, Moscow and Saigon as a Marine Security Guard, and a two-year tour as a drill instructor for Company K, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, aboard MCRD San Diego.
Westmoreland won the respect and admiration of those who served with him, and received several awards for performing his duties above and beyond expectations, including the Bronze Star with a “V” device for valor and the Purple Heart for wounds received during his time in Vietnam.
In 1973, Westmoreland retired from his 20-year-service as a first sergeant. Then, at 37 years, he began a new career with the City of San Diego Water Department as a plant water operator until September 1997.
Although Westmoreland retired, his heart and mind were still dedicated to the Marine Corps. He spent the last 14 years of his life volunteering at the Command Museum and assisted the MCRD San Diego Museum Historical Society with numerous events and activities.
“He really loved what he did,” said Kat Opasinski, media operations, Command Museum. “He was very excited about giving knowledge and would dazzle you with his brilliance.”
As a docent, he constantly volunteered to guide countless recruits and tours through the museum and history of the Marine Corps, sharing his own experiences with the future Marines.
“Bill was the type of person that when he spoke, you would listen to him,” said Stuart. “He knew his facts and he knew how to shape them into something interesting, in an entertaining way.”
Westmoreland loved Marine Corps history and what he didn’t know, he would find out. Those that knew him would all agree that “I don’t know,” wasn’t an answer that Westmoreland was willing to give.
“A bookshelf filled with reference materials about the Marine Corps was dedicated and named in his honor,” said Stuart. “The Billy Westmoreland Research Library is a tribute to his legacy.”
Known as “a Marine’s Marine,” Westmoreland’s presence at the museum created a huge impact on those around him. Although he is gone, Westmoreland will not be forgotten.