On the evening of September 10th, 2001, William R Ruth presided over his first meeting as Commander of his local VFW in Maryland. On September 11th he arrived at his job in the Pentagon for another day at work. Not long after arriving at work, Bill sent an email to his brother David in Alliance Ohio. The email contained pictures from their recent trip to their summer home in Canada. The two had returned the Sunday before. Little did David know, that would be the last communication from his brother for Bill was killed in the attack on this country.
Who was Bill Ruth? Bill was a friend of mine. I worked with him as a member of the Maryland Army National Guard where he served as a Medevac Pilot. I was the First Sergeant of the unit and Bill was a great guy to work with. He always did his job professionally and kept the safety of his aircraft and crew in the front of his mind. All of his tasks were preformed with professionalism and skill that years of service had honed to a razor sharp edge.
Bill served in Vietnam as a chopper pilot for the Marine Corps evacuating the wounded and dead from the battlefield. He later joined and served in the Guard and was deployed to the first Gulf War. A teacher by trade, Bill was loved by his students who were proud of his service and his commitment to freedom. They were saddened when he left in the middle of the school year to serve in Gulf I but were well aware of the importance of his service. After his death it was obvious that he made a huge impact on the lives of his students. The things they wrote in the guest book demonstrated that Bill approached his job as a teacher with the same professionalism and passion with which he approached his job as a soldier. Here is what some of his former students had to say:
- I was also very fortunate to be one of your students at Baker Middle School. You were one of my favorite teachers and inspired me to do well throughout the rest of my career. You also inspired me everyday in your class with your great military stories and pictures of how great our country is. You helped me to decide my career path which is flying helicopters for our great Army. Thank you for all that you have given. You are in my memories everytime[sic] I enter the cockpit, and you are in everyones[sic] prayers.
Matthew Niagro (Enterprise, AL )
- Mr Ruth was my 8th grade US History teacher at Baker in Damascus. What an influential man in my life. His dedication and passion to teaching and his country are why I am a Nurse and a Firefighter today. He always believed in me when I needed it the most. His loss is the greatest any organization, individual or society could suffer. A true American hero. Thank you Mr. Ruth.
Marina Walters (Rockville, MD )
- Mr. Ruth, I’ll never forget the impact you had on my life, beginning with the time we first met. I entered Easten Junior High School in Silver Spring, MD, September, 1975 as a 7th grader and had you as my geography teacher. You opened up my eyes and heart to the world. This increased when I took the lessons you gave the following year and I received my amateur radio license. I was able to talk to the world, long before I heard of the internet[sic]. This interest in communications led me to majoring in Electrical Engineering at Georgia Tech, something I doubt I would have done without your guidance.
Rob Shapiro (Centreville, VA )
- I had Mr. Ruth in ’97 as my World Studies and Science teacher, he retired that year. He was always my favorite teacher, everyone could tell he truly cared about how we all did in class. It’s still hard to think about how tragic that day was, and when I had heard. Right now i’m[sic] in the US Air Force stationed in Japan, I enlisted because of people like Mr. Ruth to honor him and what he’s done for our country.
Adam Triesler (Wheaton, MD )
Source: Guest Book
Bill obviously had a great impact on the lives of our youth and a passion that is often missing from today’s teachers. The mark of a good teacher is the effect he has on the lives of the students with whom he interacts. The remarks by his former students speak volumes about the impact he had and demonstrate that he was far more than just a good teacher.
After three decades of teaching Bill retired in 1997 and went to work at the Pentagon. He had previously served as a pilot in my unit and was now enjoying a new job in DC. Many of his friends kept in contact with Bill and he had many friends in and around his Mt. Airy community. He was a well liked member of the VFW and, as I earlier stated, was elected to serve as their commander.
Bill’s death was the second tragic event to affect the Ruth family. Bill’s son Chad was killed in an automobile accident about a year before Bill’s death. The calm, cool, professional known as Bill Ruth was able to keep together a family that was in shock. Bill allowed Chad’s organs to be harvested and he met with the four people who benefited from that decision. As he had done throughout his life, even during a period of great personal sorrow, Bill Ruth took a decision that helped others and saved lives.
The 29th Infantry Division preformed a mission in Bosnia and the soldiers of the 29th named the clinic in Bosnia the William R Ruth Medical Clinic in memory of Bill’s commitment to our wounded. He truly espoused the credo “When I have your wounded.” His memory and personal sacrifice to ensure our soldiers were taken care of are forever emblazoned on the sign that sits in front of the clinic. In death, as he so often did in life, Bill inspires our troops to preform at their best and to always be there for our wounded soldiers.
This was one of the most difficult posts I have ever had to write because Chief Warrant Officer William R Ruth was a friend of mine. I still feel pain and anguish at the thought of his death, especially given how he died. I am awestruck that such a quiet unassuming man could affect so many lives in so many ways. He was truly a giant among men. I miss Bill and I know that our colleagues miss him as well. We all know that Bill’s life was cut short by a cowardly act and we all have the same desire to prevent that from happening to others. Bill would have been the first to get in line, had he survived, because to him, the lives of those who perished on 9/11 would have meant something that he devoted his life to, the freedom and safety of this great Country.
May God bless his soul and give comfort to his family and friends. May this country never forget Bill Ruth and the others who were murdered on 9/11 and may we always have the resolve to press forward in finding and eliminating those responsible for their deaths.
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