• Family honors Special Forces officer

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    The family of retired Special Forces Col. William Maples unveiled a bust of him Dec. 14 at the Depot, 781 Shawnee St., Leavenworth, Kan., and was put on display Dec. 15 outside the Senator Pat Roberts Room at the Lewis and Clark Center.
    The bust will be on display on post before it is relocated to Fort Campbell, Ky. Along with the bust of Maples, who passed away Aug. 16, 2016, in Harlingen, Texas, artifacts including newspaper clippings, books, magazines, photos and Maples’ Vietnam War jacket are also on display.
    The bust of a 33-year-old Maples in his green beret was designed and created by Victoria Karpos of Marblecast Products Inc. of Salt Lake City and took one year to complete. The bust was funded through a “Go Fund Me” page that received multiple donations ranging from $25 to $10,000.
    “Knowing that there were people out there that not only either knew dad and wanted to help out because they just knew him and knew how great a guy he was, but the fact that there’s people out there that supported because he was a patriot,” said William Maple’s son Maj. Cameron Maples, S-4 of the 15th Military Police Brigade. “Just the mere fact that he served his country, strangers were e-mailing me and calling me and saying that they’re going to donate just because they appreciated his service. The outpouring, it meant quite a lot.”
    At the unveiling were Cameron; Cameron’s wife Maj. Lindsay Maples, School of Advanced Military Studies student; Cameron’s brother, Maj. Austin Maples, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; and William Maple’s wife of 22 years, Catherine Maples.
    According to his obituary, Maples enlisted in the Army during World War II as a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division and earned a master parachutist badge within two years. After being promoted to sergeant first class, he attended Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Ga., and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Infantry. He volunteered for the U.S. Army Special Forces “Green Berets” and eventually became one of the youngest operational Alpha Detachment (A-team) commanders, and he was handpicked to participate in the first high-altitude, low-opening freefall team that included parachute jumps from up to 30,000 feet. Maples had three separate tours in South Vietnam, including serving on the Mekong Delta and the island of Phu Quoc.
    Maples awards and decorations include two Silver Stars, two Bronze Star Medals with “V” device, three Purple Hearts, an Army Commendation Medal of valor and four Air Medals.
    After his retirement in 1974, Maples served with several non-profit and civic organizations in Harlingen and San Benito, Texas.
    “He’s a great man. He retired from the military, but he lived to be 80 years old and was always active,” Cameron Maples said. “He did a lot and he did a lot for people and that’s what I want people to really know.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Cameron Maples said he and Austin Maples had been trying to get all of Col. Maples’ military items together before their father passed.
    “One thing we were working on before he did pass away was getting his packet together with a lot of items like awards and military decorations. A lot of it was lost in a fire in the 70s after dad got out, but a lot of stuff he just really didn’t have the need to search for it,” Cameron said. “He wasn’t the type of guy that would start talking about these awards; he wouldn’t talk about a lot of stuff. So, it was really up to (us) to kind of do our historical research and figure out what did dad really do back then.”
    Cameron said there were some pictures his father loved to share.
    “He would always talk about his soldiers. (The photos) he shared the most were the ones of him and his soldiers. He would tell stories about his subordinates, his lieutenants that he mentored, his NCOs, his team sergeant, he would talk about those men,” Cameron said. “That’s what he enjoyed most is spending time with those men out in the jungle and doing a mission where they were all on the same page. No doubt, that was what dad enjoyed the most and that’s what he missed.”
    Before the bust was unveiled, Catherine Maples, with the help of Austin Maples and Austin’s 12-year-old son Hunter, had a presentation of her own for Cameron.
    Catherine presented Cameron with two flags. The first flag was one that had been in William and Catherine’s home throughout their marriage and once flew over the U.S. Capital, Washington, D.C., and the second flag was the one that was draped over Maples’ casket during his funeral.
    “I knew that one day I needed to pass this on to the family and didn’t think I’d do it for a while. But today just seems like the day to ensure that it goes to his son who clearly is so full of love and devotion to his dad,” Catherine said. “Today, I’m entrusting this to you. Take care of it, love it, (and) I hope you’ll display it with the bust whenever appropriate.”
    Catherine said she felt it was important to have her husband’s legacy remembered publicly.
    “I know ever since Bill passed, it’s been (Cameron’s) lifelong mission to preserve his legacy. Bill was one of the greatest patriots ever (and) country was everything to him,” she said. “Cam has really devoted his entire life since Bill passed to ensuring that that legacy lived on. Today is an extreme demonstration of what he has done to ensure that legacy. ...
    Page 3 of 3 - “People need to know about the great patriots in our country and Colonel Maples was certainly one of those. Now the world gets to share how he looked, how he felt and it’s truly amazing. I’m glad that all these memorabilia will be someplace that’s more centralized and where more people can see it,” Catherine Maples said. “We live in the most amazing, wonderful country in this world, and that he was willing to give his life for his country, besides family, there was nothing more important to him.”
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