Decorated Veteran Passes Away

By: Dara Rees Email
By: Dara Rees Email

Family and friends remembered Willie Prater as a simple man.

Staff Sergeant Prater served in World War II, the Korean War, fought on the beaches of Normandy, and in the Battle of the Bulge.

Friends say Prater possibly earned more medals and awards than any other vet in Pike County and possibly the state of Kentucky.

WYMT's Dara Rees spoke with Prater's family about his desire to serve his community and help other veterans.

Willie Prater entered the military at age 16, but the army thought he was 18, when he applied using his brother's social security number.

“I'm not sure what battle it was when he got wounded, but they found out in the hospital that he had lied about his age and had gotten in, and they wanted to send him back home and he didn't want to go, so they let him stay,” Daughter Sharon Holland said.

During World War II, Prater was missing in action for 10 days behind enemy lines.

“He took one of the of the enemy's uniforms and wore it to go through them to get back to his men,” Greg Prater said.

Prater served 9 years in the United States Army and received nearly 100 medals and awards.

Prater helped dozens of veterans receive pensions and compensations for their military service, and even helped some receive medals they earned overseas.

“If he were here, he'd be telling everybody to think of the boys fighting in the war now, and pray for our leaders, pray for our boys, take care of our country,” Holland said.

Staff Sgt. Willie Prater's memory lives on through his family. Even the youngest know how to salute like Papaw.

Staff Sergeant Willie Prater died of lung cancer.

He was 80 years old.


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  • by Sharon Location: Pikeville on Jun 14, 2008 at 07:34 AM
    Although I still feel sad and lonely as Father's Day approaches,I am thankful for the wonderful Father (and Mother) that I had. I have been greatly blessed. I still ache in my heart and miss Dad (and mom) terribly. One great honor is that Dara Rees allowed my Father to be honored in a way he would have never imagined. She impressed many people with her interview and video of Dad's military funeral. That is an understatement to the remarks and comments our family has recieved from so many interested friends, family, veterans and other citizens. We get phone calls and comments still from people who have read the interview or seen the video that is posted on WYMT. We want to thank Dara Rees once again for this honorable recognition to my Father. Thank You Dara, and God Bless You! Oh yea, last time I looked (yesterday) Dad still has over 18,000 views. I am very proud!!!
  • by Sharon Location: Pikeville on Jan 9, 2008 at 03:54 PM
    Dad it has been 56 days now and the pain in my heart is still there. I miss you so and I ache just to hear your voice. But I want to thank WYMT and Dara Rees once again for allowing my Dad the great honor of going out as a Hero and a Legend in the year 2007 as the New Year approaches. God Bless!
  • by Brent Location: Pikeville on Jan 2, 2008 at 08:28 PM
    I would like to thank WYMT for honoring my papaw. He was a dedicated veteran with a very strong heart. He deserves all the recognition and respect of anyone I know. I am very proud to say he was a part of my family. I loved him dearly and I will always cherish the memories I have of him. He was an inspiration to many and a great role model for all. If everyone would present themselves as papaw did then this would be a better place to live. He was not only a honorable veteran, but also a well rounded individual. Words just cannot explain what an amazing man my papaw really was. He always tried to guide his family in the right direction and put great emphasis on morals and values. Nothing would make papaw more proud than to see his family succeed and become postive role models for their children. If only people would see the greater parts of life rather than focusing on negative aspects such as drugs and materialistic things then the world would be a better place. Love Brent
  • by Sharon Location: Pikeville on Dec 13, 2007 at 09:06 AM
    I just wanted to thank Ms. Rees once again for doing such a great job with this review of my dad's military ceremony. I have heard so many wonderful comments about it. We will be forever grateful for this opportunity to let others know what an amazing man my dad was to his community and friends. He will be missed terribly by his family and so many other veterans, friends and comrades. Dad would say to everyone "Please Take Care and Love One Another, Pray For Your Leaders, and Pray for Your Country." Merry Christmas!! God Bless!! A very Proud daughter--Sharon
  • by Anonymous on Dec 12, 2007 at 06:52 AM
    It's been over a month now since papaw passed and the story that Ms. Rees did has had over 800 views. This means so much to me and our family. It's keeping his spirit and memory alive. It gives me comfort to be able to look at the comments posted about papaw and to see that he touched so many peoples lives. Papaw was an extraordinary man and people need to know that. This is one way of doing just that. They can read about him and watch the clip of the newscast. I just wanted to say a few words of gratitude and thank all those who have posted comments or viewed the Memorial Service. You will never know how much it means to me. I love you Papaw and miss you terribly. Rest In Peace
  • by RHONDA Location: FREEBURN,KY. on Nov 16, 2007 at 07:30 PM
    I WOULD LIKE TO THANK DARA REES AND WYMT FOR HONORING MY FATHER-in-LAW WILLE PRATER. HE WAS A GREAT PERSON.I KNEW WILLIE 34 YEARS. HE ALWAYS TREATED ME WITH LOVE AND RESPECT.HE LOVED HIS COUNTRY AND HIS FAMILY.HE WAS THE MOST PATRIOTIC PERSON I KNOW.HE LOVED GOING TO THE SCHOOLS ON VETERANS DAY AND TALKING TO THE CHILDREN.HE ESPECIALLY LOVED THE PHELPS HIGH SCHOOL JROTC CLASS AND TALKING WITH SGT.AKERS AND SGT.KEMPER.WILLIE YOU ARE A GREAT GUY AND YOU'LL BE MISSED EVERYDAY. I COULD WRITE ALL NIGHT BUT I STILL COULDN'T EXPRESS THE HONOR YOU DESERVE. WE ARE REALLY GOING TO MISS YOU, BUT HEAVEN IS SWEETER WITH YOU THERE. THANKS AGAIN, WYMT
  • by GREG Location: FREEBURN, KY on Nov 16, 2007 at 07:01 PM
    My name is Greg Prater "The PROUD son" of Willie Prater. First of all I want to thank WYMT & Dara Rees for doing the story on my father. Dara Rees was very polite and proffessional. I watched the story on TV and she did a great job. I am so proud of my dad that words could never express how I feel. He always taught me that you only live once and after you're gone you don't get a second chance to do it over. And to do all I can for other people and to respect ALL Soldiers, and Veterans. Dad helped dozens of Veterans to get their VA Pensions and their Medals. Even while he was sick and in pain he would ask me to take him to ceremonies to honor other veterans. And I've also taken him to their house to help them order their medals and put them on their uniforms. He always told me it didn't matter how many medals you had, all veterans deserve the same respect as long as they did your their best to serve their country. My dad, WILLIE PRATER will always be my HERO. THANK YOU WYMT
  • by Tyler Location: Phelps on Nov 15, 2007 at 04:47 PM
    Hello, I am Wille Prater's Grandson and I really miss him. I was just going to say thanks a lot WYMT for coming out and recognizing my Grandpa!!!! Thanks Dara Rees for climbing all the way up that muddy hill to camera cord!!!!!!
  • by Lonetta Location: Pike County on Nov 15, 2007 at 05:52 AM
    It was an honor to know Willie. He was good to everyone. He made a large impact in other people's lives. His goodness and caring will never be forgotten by those who knew him. God Bless You, Willie. Thank you for your service and contributions.
  • by james Location: london ky on Nov 14, 2007 at 01:48 PM
    thank you for attending and reporting my uncles funeral yesterday. We all are very proud of his accomplishments and the life he lead. His story is one that should be told. He and other warriors like him are the essence of our freedom. His story would be a very impacting project for a good reporter such as yourself. Thank You for your interest and time sincerely James C. Mounts London ky
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