Family, Friends and Oklahoma National Guard members gathered to recognize one of its top leaders at a retirement ceremony at the Oklahoma Regional Training Institute Thursday, June 27. Brig. Gen. Louis Wilham, Oklahoma National Guard assistant adjutant general (Army), bid farewell to the Oklahoma National Guard after more than 32 years of service.
During the ceremony, Wilham thanked a myriad of people, to include current and former military Service members, full-time workforce, State employees, and the Oklahoma Legislature, who Wilham directly worked with in securing a 50 percent increase in funding for armories across the state. However, he said the Soldiers and Airmen of the Oklahoma National Guard are the backbone of what the National Guard contributes to the state.
“I’ve always been humbled by what we do collectively and what many of you do individually,” Wilham said. “During last month’s flooding, I was unable to be part of [the State Active Duty mission]. It was very difficult for me to not be here and share that with you, but what you all did was amazing.”
Wilham said people thank him every day for serving in the military, especially since 9-11. However, he feels the people who are doing the thanking are the ones who should be thanked.
“I am truly honored I had the privilege to serve,” Wilham said. “It is obvious that I did not get here today on my own. There is no way I could have done this on my own. Each of you here today has either directly or indirectly helped me in my career and has shaped me for the better. Everybody in here has a place in my heart and has helped me immensely.”
During his military service, Wilham has developed an appreciation for travel by visiting 47 states in the US, as well as 14 different countries. Days after his retirement, Wilham and his wife, Jodie, will board a ship they will sail by themselves along the east coast of the U.S. As a farewell gift, Wilham gave those in attendance an Earth-shaped stress ball with the words “Wander, but not from our values” printed in the Indian Ocean.
“I want you all to wander, I want you all to travel,” Wilham said. “Traveling is the one thing that cures fear and it cures ignorance. But the one thing I don’t want you to wander from is our values.”
Wilham commissioned in 1989 through the Oklahoma Military Department, Officer Candidate School in Oklahoma City. In previous assignments in the Oklahoma National Guard, he has served as 145th Army Band commander, 90th Troop Command commander, director of personnel, Vice-Chief of Staff and executive director of the Oklahoma Military Department. Wilham has commanded at the company, battalion and brigade levels. Prior to receiving his commission, Wilham served for two years as an enlisted Soldier in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
His operational mobilizations include multiple state active duty missions in response to natural disaster relief in Oklahoma, as well as a deployment to New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita disaster recovery operations. In 2007, he mobilized and deployed to Iraq with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In 2016, Wilham was promoted to brigadier general and served as the assistant adjutant general and executive director of the Oklahoma Military Department. Included in his many awards and decorations are the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Oklahoma Distinguished Service Medal.