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  • Ren Gudino

Interstate 77 Bridges renamed after Local Hero, the late Sgt. William J. Thompson

Interstate highway bridges once known only by a series of numbers now showcase the name of a local veteran who served his country in Iraq and continued to serve fellow veterans battling health issues. North- and southbound bridges along Interstate 77 traffic over Route 20 now feature the name of U.S. Army SSG William Joseph “Will” Thompson. This dedication is a fitting tribute to a hero who sacrificed so much for his country and local community.

Thompson's story is one of resilience, selflessness, and dedication. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland on March 12, 1971 and grew up in Princeton. Thompson graduated from Princeton High School in 1989 and served in the West Virginia Army National Guard. He was also a member of the United States Army as a combat medic and ended up serving 23 years in the military as a whole. During his time in the military, he was deployed twice to Iraq: once in 2003 and again in 2009 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

During his time overseas, Thompson was exposed to toxic burn pits and developed pulmonary fibrosis. Despite this, he did not let his condition stop him from continuing to serve his country and his fellow soldiers. As a result, Thompson had a double lung transplant in 2012 but his body later rejected his new lungs. A new donor gifted Thompson two more lungs, but medication used to keep his lungs healthy made him more susceptible to skin cancer. Thompson had multiple surgeries to remove skin cancer and multiple rounds of chemo and radiation.

Thompson's dedication to his fellow veterans and his country was truly remarkable. He became an advocate for other soldiers who had been exposed to burn pits during their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He testified before Congress and the United States Committee on Veterans Affairs about the illnesses veterans were suffering and played a pivotal role in fighting for federal legislation in what is now called the PACT Act, which was passed on August 20, 2022.

Thompson was a true American hero, and his dedication to his country continued past his military service. He served his country by advocating for the health and well-being of his fellow veterans, even in the face of his own health challenges. Some of the awards bestowed upon Thompson include the Expert Field Medical Badge from Germany, several Army Achievement medals, The Meritorious Service Medal, The Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary medal, The Good Conduct Medal, and the German Armed Forces Badge of Marksmanship.

Thompson's wife, Suzanne, and his two children, Ethan and Ava, were in attendance during the bridge dedication at WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital. The event was an emotional and heartwarming tribute to a man who truly embodied the American spirit of courage and selflessness.

The dedication of the I-77 bridges in Thompson's name is a fitting tribute to a local hero who sacrificed so much for his country. Having the memorial signs up on I-77 will preserve the name of U.S. Army Sgt. SSG William Joseph Thompson and the memories of his accomplishments for the community and for future generations of his family. The dedication is a reminder that we must never forget the sacrifices made by our veterans and the importance of honoring their legacy. We must continue to support our veterans and their families in every way possible and never forget the selflessness and dedication they have shown in serving our country.

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