(MIL) A BUDDY NOW AND THEN

By Jug Varner

We all have special buddies from our military days. We never see them often enough, but stay in touch through the years. Although the ranks are thinning with age, I am very fortunate to still have several of these special friends who date back to WWII, Korea, and/or Vietnam days. One in particular that I'm very proud of is Bill Thompson.

Bill and I first met back at San Diego, in the late 50s, when I was just changing my Navy career from aviation to Navy Public Information (later renamed Public Affairs). Bill filled the billet as First Fleet PIO, and I was PIO, Naval Training Center Command. Several years later, I retired from the Navy to pursue a civilian career. Bill continued climbing the ladder of Navy success, becoming the top Navy PA specialist — Chief of Navy Information (CHINFO) — and the first one of our group to make Rear Admiral. Time and space doesn't permit all the accolades due Bill. Suffice is to say that he set the tone that few if any have equaled in devotion to the Navy.

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After retirement, he took on the tremendous challenge of establishing the Navy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Bill and his staff began the long, arduous task of raising several million dollars, and coordinating the design, construction, and unique displays of this beautiful memorial to Navy men and women, past, present, and future. Located along Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the National Archives, it has become one of the top tourist attractions in America's most memorialized city. See also my 1992 KA story on the Navy Memorial.

Having long since retired as honcho of the Navy Memorial, Bill and wife Dorothy continue to serve that organization in a more low key, relaxed manner. For several seasons they have traveled the world over, coordinating the Navy Memorial Foundation cruise program. (I call them “Den Mothers,” having served in a similar capacity on several tours of yore).