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Local soldier earns Bronze Star for work during mission in Iraq

A Brookhaven resident returned from Iraq in mid-January with therespect of the U.S. Army – and a Bronze Star medal to prove it.

Master Sgt. Clois Wilson, 55, of Robertson Road, was awarded themedal for his service with the 155th Infantry Battalion of the155th Brigade Combat Team between Jan. 15 and July 1, 2005, whilestationed in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The award, one of the Army’s highest medals, states Wilson’s”outstanding performance and dedication to duty during combatoperations in Iraq were critical to the overwhelming success of thecommand’s mission.”

Wilson said the award represented “a lot of hard work and longhours – daylight to way past dark.”

He served as the battalion’s maintenance sergeant. For more thanhalf the deployment, however, Wilson had to also assume the role asthe maintenance officer.

“Master Sgt. Wilson was faced with the daunting task of gettingthe combat equipment that was received from the outgoing Marinesinto an acceptable level of operational readiness … (and was)faced with many challenges with regards to an overwhelming need formaintenance in an extremely dangerous combat zone which furthertook its toll on the battalion’s equipment,” according to an Armypress release.

In addition, Wilson “maintained the highest consistentoperational readiness rate in the brigade while having the worst ofconditions in which to operate.”

A humble Wilson credited the award to soldiers under hiscommand.

“That Bronze Star is because I had very good mechanics workingfor me – 72 of them. It’s all because of them,” he said. “We gotsome impossible things done. When (a Humvee) would get hit by anIED (improvised explosive device), we’d work day and night to getthem back on patrol.”

And they did it understrength, Wilson said. Throughout thedeployment, the maintenance crew was short approximately 12mechanics.

“That just made everyone have to work harder,” Wilson said. “Ihave to say they did a good job.”

Wilson returned to the U.S. on Jan. 12 and finished hisdemobilization at Camp Shelby Jan. 22.

“I’ve only been here two weeks. I’m still adjusting. I’m glad tobe here,” he said. “You want to do so much it’s hard to work it allin.”

One of the first things Wilson was able to “work in” was to meethis new granddaughter, Juliana, who was born Jan. 4 while he wasstill in Iraq.

Wilson, who works full-time for the Mississippi Army NationalGuard at the Brookhaven armory, is married to Junko Wilson. Thecouple has two sons, Joe, 32, of Brookhaven, and Albert, 30, ofWesson.

Iraq was not Wilson’s first time in a combat zone. He enlistedin the Army in 1970 and served in Vietnam from September 1970through September 1971 before leaving the active Army in 1978. Heenlisted in the Mississippi ANG in July 1982 and served a tour inBosnia-Herzegovina from September 2001 to March 2002.

Wilson was among the members of the 155th Brigade Combat Team tobe honored by the state Senate and House in separate ceremoniesThursday.

He said it “was truly an honor” to attend the ceremonieswelcoming the troops home and made his first trip to the Capitolmemorable.