On Saturday, October 19, 2013, Rick Romero, New Mexico State Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, stopped by the New Mexico Veterans Memorial on his next leg of a relay via “Iron Horse Express” to deliver a case containing g and medals belonging to MM3 Robert Williford.
MM3 Robert Williford was only 19 years old and on his 4th war patrol on the USS Scorpion SS278 when the ship was declared lost and presumed sunk in the South China/Yellow Sea sector of operation on March 6, 1944.
A small box engraved with his name and containing his 5 medals (Purple Heart, Asiatic Pacific Campaign, WWII Victory Medal, Navy Good Conduct, and the American Campaign) was found in a wooded area of Mesa, Arkansas. The box was handed over to the local funeral home in hopes of locating a next of kin. After an exhaustive genealogy search and a great deal of research on the USS Scorpion, no surviving relative was located. It remained a mystery how the medals ended up in Arkansas.
On August 30, 2013, the funeral home conducted a very dignified memorial service for Robert Williford. Local veterans were among those who attended the service to respectfully pay tribute to a man who gave his life for his country aboard the USS Scorpion. One submarine veteran attended the service and was given custody of the medals and a flag. Arrangements were made with the USS Razorback SS394 Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas for display, since no surviving next of kin was found.
Then in early October a call came from the funeral home that a family member was located in Cortez, Colorado. A nephew, Wayne Williford, was 9 years old when Robert Williford was lost. The family desired the presentation case be given to them.
The Patriot Guard Riders in New Mexico were contacted to help with the relay from Arkansas to Colorado and deliver the case to the family.
The Patriot Guard Riders took possession of the case and received permission from the family in Cortez to show the case to the local Submarine Group in Albuquerque. The case will be on display at the New Mexico Veterans Memorial until the end of October, then taken on its last leg and delivered to the Williford family in Cortez, Colorado.