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Wilburn Ross, who received Medal of Honor for heroism in WWII, dies at 94

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By Matt Schudel May 11 at 6:22 PM

Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award for valor.

He killed or wounded at least 58 German soldiers and “saved the remnants of his company from destruction.”

He stayed by his gun through the night and next day, prepared for a possible return by enemy forces. After 36 hours, it was clear that the Germans had abandoned the field.

Sgt. Ross emerged from the battle unscathed.

“I was a lucky guy all the way through,” he said in 2011, “because they got awful close to me.”

In April 1945, Sgt. Ross and four other members of the 3rd Division were awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at a stadium in Nuremberg, Germany, where Adolf Hitler had conducted prewar rallies.

Wilburn Kirby Ross was born May 12, 1922, in Strunk, Ky., a rural hamlet near the Tennessee border. He grew up on a farm and learned to hunt and fish as a boy. He practiced his marksmanship by placing a match in a tree and lighting it with a shot from his .22-caliber rifle.

He worked as a coal miner before moving to Virginia to be a shipyard welder early in World War II. He was drafted in 1942.

After the war, he worked for the Kentucky highway authority for a year or two before reenlisting in the Army. In 1950, after only nine days on the battlefield in the Korean War, Sgt. Ross was severely wounded in his legs by machine-gun fire. He remained in the Army until 1964.

He settled in DuPont, Wash., where he worked in a pickle factory and drove a van for a veterans hospital. He often attended veterans events and was one of 12 Medal of Honor recipients featured on postage stamps released in 2013.

His wife of more than 60 years, the former Monica Belford, died in 2011. They had six children. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

Sgt. Ross had few trappings of his wartime heroism, except for a commemorative Medal of Honor license plate that other motorists occasionally noticed in traffic.

“Sometimes people salute me,” he said.