KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Korean War veteran William Harrison Gilley was recently awarded the Ambassador for Peace medal by the Korean government.
Staff Sgt. Gilley was given the award Wednesday at Morning Pointe Senior Living in West Knoxville. The Ambassador for Peace Medal was first presented to veterans as a special memento for those who returned to South Korea through the Revisit Program. The honor has since expanded to veterans who cannot make the long journey to Korea.
Gilley was 19 when he joined the Air Force in 1951 and spent basic training in Wichita Falls, Texas. He then spent more than two years in Japan before being deployed to Korea as part of the Airborne Air Control Squadron.
He recounted the routine of having to avoid being shot by a North Korean plane while he was in the mess hall.
“The plane came in every night,” he said. “We got under the tables to protect ourselves. That sort of thing happened all the time.”
After he left the Air Force Gilley attended East Tennessee State University. He met his wife, Mary Jo, at church in 1958. In the years since, he was part of many organizations like American Legion and Civitan International. He worked in law enforcement for 20 years but retired as the owner of an insurance agency.