A Tribute to a Great WWII Vet - Past National President Joe Motil

Joe Motil - A Tribute to a Great WWII Vet

by Bob Babcock

Each of us have our favorite WWII vet we have met somewhere. In my 27 years since attending my first 4ID Association reunion, I have had the honor of meeting and becoming friends with many WWII veterans of the 4th Infantry Division. While all of them are special, one man - Joe Motil - stands out as more than special. Let me tell you how he has helped so many of us.

My first 4ID Association reunion was in Orlando, FL in 1991. Several WWII vets introduced themselves to me then - Jim Nannini, Paul Brunelle, Frank Bradley, Wayne Brown, Chaplain George Knapp, Rick Sover, Leo Jereb, Tallie Crocker, Gerry Gramp, Ralph Lingert, Joe Motil, and the list goes on and on. Back then, WWII vets outnumbered us Vietnam guys in the 4IDA by about 90% to 10%.

I didn't say much during that reunion. I was a new guy and had grown up being in awe of our "Greatest Generation" WWII veterans. What I enjoyed was sitting and listening as these men swapped war stories with each other - talking about Utah Beach and D-Day, capturing Cherbourg, the St. Lo breakout, the joy of liberating Paris, breaking through the Siegfried Line, the hell in the Hurtgen Forest, not letting the Germans penetrate their lines during the Battle of the Bulge, and then their fight back as they fought deep into Germany until victory was declared on VE Day.

For whatever reason, Joe Motil seemed to take a special interest in me. We had the common bond that we had both fought with the 22nd Infantry Regiment - he on D-Day until he was seriously wounded five days later, me in Vietnam 22 years later. During our conversations, Joe told me about a special group of WWII veterans - the men who had formed the 22nd Infantry Society - WWII on the ship coming home from victory in Europe. He gave me the mailing address of the Society, and of Major General (Retired) John Ruggles, who had landed on D-Day as Regimental executive officer and ended the war as Regimental commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment.

I wrote a letter to the Society asking if I could attend their reunion that year in Jackson, MS. General Ruggles welcomed me with open arms, spent a most memorable afternoon one on one telling me about his WWII memories, and invited me to their next reunion. I also spent more time with Joe Motil, deepening our friendship.

From that afternoon began an ongoing relationship with General Ruggles and Chaplain Boice that a few years later resulted in a call asking me to take over leadership of the 22nd Infantry Regiment Society, open it up to 22nd vets from all generations, and not let it shut down, as they were prepared to do if I didn't accept their request. I proudly accepted and led the Society for ten years, moved it from a WWII organization to an all-inclusive one that is alive and thriving today with 3,000 members who served with 4ID, 25ID, and 10th MTN Divisions.

All of this happened because Joe Motil saw this guy at a reunion, took him under his wing, and gave me an opportunity to help. Carol, Joe's daughter, told me that Joe was very proud that he recruited Alex Cooker, the first Vietnam vet president of the 4IDA, and me who remains active in both the 4IDA and 22nd infantry Regiment Society.

Joe Motil was a man who believed in inclusion - taking every person as an equal and encouraging us to step forward and help other veterans. When Joe joined the 4IDA, it was dominated by WWI vets (our founding members). As they died off and the WWII guys took the lead, Joe was a steadfast and loyal member for many years, watching it evolve from WWI dominated to WWII to Vietnam and now we are making our transition to be led by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Many reading this have their own story of how Joe Motil made them feel at home during reunions.

Joe Motil changed my life with his simple act of kindness, friendship, and inclusion at my first reunion way back in 1991. He will be sorely missed and never forgotten. I will miss his pride in having his Family with him at reunions, his granddaughter singing the National Anthem, and his annual bragging about the size of watermelons he grew in his garden. Joe was always Steadfast and Loyal, and a man of Deeds Not Words.

Thus, I have recommended to the 4IDA and 22nd Infantry Regiment Society executive boards that each organization begin a Joe Motil Centurion Award to be given to anyone who goes out of his/her way (as Joe Motil always did) to welcome and encourage all our organizations' members to get involved, to participate, to use their talents to help others - and to welcome newcomers so that no one ever feels like a stranger when they are around us.

Joe Motil and others took us Vietnam vets under their wings and welcomed us, now it is time for we Vietnam vets to take our Iraq/Afghanistan vets and their Families under our wings, welcome them, and encourage them to start taking over the leadership from us Vietnam vets - as our WWII vets did from our WWI founders, and as we Vietnam vets did from the WWII vets. I'm looking forward to seeing the first of our members (including Family members) who will be awarded the Joe Motil Centurion Award. We will announce the details, and the first recipients, at our 100th anniversary of 4ID Association reunion in Springfield, MO in August.

Past National President Joe Motil (100) passed away December 12, 2018

Joseph E. Motil, 100, of Bethlehem died Wednesday, December 12, 2018 at Moravian Village in Bethlehem. Born in Williams Township he was the son of the late Anna (Mauer) and Alexander Motil. He was married to Goldie C. (Kovacs) Motil for 65 years until her death in 2008. Joe worked in the Laros Silk Mill and Bethlehem Silk Mill. He also worked for Bethlehem Steel in the soaking pits and other departments for 40 years. Joe served his country in the US Army during WWII. He was attached to the 4th Infantry (IVY) Div. L. CO. 22nd Inf. Reg. and landed with the first wave on Utah Beach on D Day, June 6th 1944. He was wounded June 11, 1944 and received the Purple Heart for his injuries. He also received the following medals: Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Arrowhead, European African Middle Eastern Medal, President Unit Emblem Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Button WWII, Good Conduct Medal, and 50th Anniversary French Jubilee of Liberty Medal. In 2016 he received the French Medal of Honor at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. He was the founder of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the 4th Inf. (IVY) Div. Assn. and served as President at both the Chapter and National levels. Joseph was a life member of DAV Chapter 07 of the Lehigh Valley, Military order of the Purple Heart Chapter 190 of the Lehigh Valley, Battle of the Bulge, Hellertown American Legion Post 397. He served as Sr. Vice Commander and President of the Hellertown Legion Post. Joe was born and raised on a farm and continued his love of gardening with special interest in growing and eating hot peppers and watermelons. He will be lovingly remembered by his daughter, Carol Sellman, wife of Robert of Haddon Heights, NJ, grandchildren, Michelle Cox, wife of Retired A.F. Col. Lee–Volker and Jennifer Jenkins, wife of Adam, and great grandson, Ryan. Joseph was preceded in death by his brothers, Alexander and Louis Motil and sister, Anna Motil. A viewing will be held on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at Connell Funeral Home, 245 E. Broad St., Bethlehem, PA 18018 from 10 AM to 12 PM followed by a service at 12 PM. Burial will be at Holy Savior Cemetery, Bethlehem.