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William Baird was born January 23, 1923, and died May 29, 2013.
He was born in McGrann, county of Armstrong, state of Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Allegheny River, where the Pennsylvania Railroad threaded its shores.
He was the son of John Bruce Baird Jr. and Myra Viola Baird-Parker. He attended Ford City High School, San Joaquin Delta College and the University of San Francisco, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science.
He was a member of the "Greatest Generation" and spent 30 years of his life in the military service of his country, first in the U.S. Navy, where wounds received in action stopped that career.
Second was as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps, where the "Universal Code of Military Justice" shortened that career.
Third was in the U.S. Army, where he remained until retirement.
Known to his compatriots as Wild Bill, he distinguished himself as a "soldier's soldier" in some of the most difficult conflicts of the war years — World War II, from Normandy to the Elbe River in Germany, Korea and, finally, Vietnam.
A parachutist for 28 years, his assignments were with airborne units: 82nd, 101st, 11th, 8th, 173rd and Special Force HQ and Studies and Observation Group (SOG).
He was assigned as an airborne adviser to Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru in South America.
Awards and decorations seemed easy to come by, but one of the hardest to achieve was the Good Conduct Medal, not that he was a bad-apple sort.
His grade, at the end of his career, was that of command sergeant major.
During the war years and the many conflicts, he was a volunteer-type and felt his best in all-volunteer units, as is the airborne.
During the battles, his thoughts of mortality never entered his mind because of his belief, "There is no greater honor for a soldier than to give his life for his country or his friend."
He died peacefully at home after a long illness.
He is survived by his loving wife, Katharina, and many friends.
Published in The Peninsula Daily News on June 30, 2013