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Ashe County Veterans History Project: William May


William May's Photos

William May's Story

William Lester May was born on October 28, 1928, in Ashe County to parents Marvin and Grace Ragan May. He enlisted in the Navy on January 15, 1948; and after his initial service term, he joined the Air Force in 1952. He stayed in the Air Force for twenty-three years and served during the Vietnam War. He retired from the military on November 30, 1971.

Sergeant May traveled to many places throughout his military career: Thailand, Germany, Holland, Hawaii, and Alaska.  He loved telling stories of his travels; and his hobbies included fishing, gardening, listening to music, and spending time with his grandchildren. He was an avid solitaire player.

He was awarded a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and an Air Force Good Conduct Medal.

Sgt. William May died at the age of 91 on May 16, 2020. He was survived by three daughters, Shawna May and boyfriend Michael Wilson, Terry Blevins and husband Billy, Sandy Shatley and husband Tim; seven grandchildren, Noah, Leeper, Trajan, Kyra, Fran, Charity, Lakota, and Tanner; five great grandchildren, Boston, October, Riley, Ellie, and Huck; also surviving are four nieces, Joy, Julia, Rebecca, and Linda.

Reflections from grandson Trajan Wellington

Although I wasn’t alive during William Lester May’s military career, his stories of his travels outside the United States had a lasting impact on everyone’s life. William May joined the Navy at age 20 on January 15, 1948. He enlisted in the Navy in Huntington, West Virginia. He was honorably discharged from the Navy on January 8, 1952 in Norfolk, Virginia. The following November, Master Sergeant May entered the Air Force in Charlotte, NC. While he served his country in the Air Force, he was an Instrument Panel Electrician and Repair Man. His experiences impacted his life at home as well, such as when he named his beloved family cat after his favorite Dutch beer or when he wore his coats from the time he served in Greenland. His military service gave him many opportunities most people don’t get the chance to experience. He got to go to Thailand where he lived while in the Navy and talked about seeing people ride elephants; he told me of seeing arctic foxes on the runway while he was serving in Greenland. He had some scary experiences as well, including flying over Vietnam during the war. We recently lost our beloved Papaw and Father on May 16, 2020, but his memories, infectious laugh, smile, and stories will live on forever in the hearts of his family.