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The late Bill May will be honored posthumously at the 2017 Golden Kielbasa Veterans Open. May was a 24-year Army aviator and co-founder of House of Heroes Connecticut who dedicated the last four years of his life to assisting veterans in need in Connecticut and beyond. A major supporter of the GK, May inspired a legion of family, friends and colleagues to carry on his legacy of honoring service with service.
A Man for All Seasons

Bill May’s Infectious Optimism, Uncompromising Values and Dedication to Service Inspired a Movement that is Changing Lives

(The following article was published in The New Britain Herald/Bristol Press on July 9, 2016.)

By Brian M. Johnson, Staff Writer

SOUTHINGTON — For 20 years, former Town Council member Art Secondo has been working with Earle Jackson, of Plainville, to get a Medal of Honor for Bristol resident John Hogan’s remarkable service in Vietnam.

Hogan served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1974. He began in the 101st Airborne Division and served there for two tours before returning to the U.S. to further his knowledge at flight school.
When he later returned to Vietnam, he served with the 25th Infantry Division’s First Aviation Brigade as a helicopter pilot.

“It was something that I volunteered to do,” said Hogan. “I didn’t enjoy it. It was combat, it was scary, but with the passage of time things have gotten better. I still think about Vietnam every day and the people that were there with me and I still don’t like fireworks. I did my job and I’m quite proud of it, but it’s in the past. I went down with my family to see the wall in Washington, D.C. It was quite moving, but I shed a few tears and let it go. I came home alive. A lot of guys didn’t.”

When he left the service, Hogan was a first lieutenant and had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, three Purple Hearts, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Metal for five campaigns, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Army Aviation Badge.

The following is an excerpt from Capt. David Korponai’s letter sent July 13 1967 to award Hogan with his Bronze Star:

“While in an ambush position, Specialist Hogan observed an enemy element enter the killing zone of the ambush. Shortly after the ambush was triggered Specialist Hogan was wounded by grenade fragments. With complete disregard for his own safety, Specialist Hogan refused medical aid and remained exposed to the murderous enemy fire while firing his machine gun until the enemy unit had been destroyed.”

The following is an excerpt from the announcement of Hogan being awarded with a Distinguished Service Cross in May 1967:

“… Hogan distinguished himself. .. while serving as a fire team leader of an airborne infantry platoon on combat operations near Duc Pho. While moving along a ridgeline, his company was heavily attacked by a well entrenched Viet Cong force firing automatic weapons. Seeing a wounded comrade trapped in the open, Specialist Hogan dashed from the rear of the column under a hail of enemy bullets and dragged the man to safety. Grabbing several hand grenades, he charged through the fire now concentrated on him and destroyed one enemy bunker. Heedless of the bullets striking all around him he charged another bunker and killed the defenders with another hand grenade. He saw a wounded comrade nearby and quickly began carrying him to safety under a barrage of fire. A Viet Cong soldier stood up to fire on him, but he grabbed the wounded man’s rifle and killed the insurgent with a deadly burst of fire. After moving the man to the perimeter, he ignored his own safety to grab his rifle and more grenades and again assault the fortifications singlehandedly. Firing furiously, he destroyed another bunker with well-placed grenades. Shouting for his fire team to follow, he quickly knocked out another bunker and moved inside to pick up enemy weapons. Leading his men in a fierce charge, he swept through the hostile positions and aided in destroying four more Viet Cong fortifications.”

Hogan said that when he saw a wounded comrade he “popped.”

“Our unit was all very tight,” he said. “I saw three or four guys were hit and severely wounded and I just popped. It wasn’t a matter of courage, I didn’t even think of that. I just knew I needed to help my buddy, so that’s what I did. It wasn’t planned.”

Hogan said returning home after the war was a difficult transition.

“I was very used to the Army, but I didn’t have the education to stay in as an officer,” he said. “People did not treat us well in general when we returned home. For some reason, Vietnam veterans didn’t get the respect or support that they should have. A lot of guys were spat upon and had a lot of nasty things done to them. I never ran into any of that, but I did run into some people running their mouths. It was easy enough to take care of that. I didn’t put up with any crap from anyone.”

Hogan said the last member from his unit that he had remained in contact with died recently.

He has chosen not to become a member of veterans’ groups and doesn’t often speak of his service. Hogan said that his father, who served as a Marine in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, ingrained “a lot of values” in him including “to not being a braggart.”

“People see what you do and you get what you earn is what he would tell me,” said Hogan.

Hogan first met Jackson, who served three tours in Vietnam as a medic, on the golf course. The two became fast friends and later participated in the Golden Kielbasa Veterans’ Open in Farmington.

“Once we started playing together, Earl would get very excited about my service,” said Hogan. “He sometimes embarrassed me when he brought it up in front of others.”

“What we’re looking for is to have someone look at what he has done,” said Jackson, who served as a combat medic and a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade from 1965 to 1968, serving in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. “John is a born warrior. What he did was phenomenal. Every single military person, without exception, who has read his citations has said that he deserved the Medal of Honor.”

Through Jackson, Hogan also met Secondo, who has worked with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Chairman Tom Pandolfi to try to get Hogan the recognition they feel he deserves.

“Looking at his record, it’s obvious that this man deserves commendation from Washington,” said Secondo. “It’s just astounding what he did. The Vietnam War was a tough war, and those that fought in it, especially those on the front lines, deserve a lot of credit for what they did.”

“People read my citations and I get a lot of praise,” said Hogan. “It’s not easy to accept. I do want the Medal of Honor and I’m very appreciative that Earl and the others have invested so much time in me.”

Hogan has traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with the secretary of defense and has also visited Sen. Chris
Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal to request that his case be re-considered, but says that he feels like he is getting nowhere.

“I’ve told Earl and the others to leave it alone, but they always start back up again,” said Hogan. “We’ll see what happens.”

“The key is that we need legislative support from our local senators and congressmen,” said Jackson. “We need them behind us to help cut through the red tape and we have been trying for years.”

This year, the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be hosting an event Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. where a
Connecticut War Medal will be presented to anyone who served in Vietnam.

For more information, call 860-832-2977.
GTON — For 20 years, former Town Council member Art Secondo has been working with Earl Jackson, of Plainville, to get a Medal of Honor for Bristol resident John Hogan’s remarkable service in Vietnam.
Hogan served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1974. He began in the 101st Airborne Division and served there for two tours before returning to the U.S. to further his knowledge at flight school.
When he later returned to Vietnam, he served with the 25th Infantry Division’s First Aviation Brigade as a helicopter pilot.
“It was something that I volunteered to do,” said Hogan. “I didn’t enjoy it. It was combat, it was scary, but with the passage of time things have gotten better. I still think about Vietnam every day and the people that were there with me and I still don’t like fireworks. I did my job and I’m quite proud of it, but it’s in the past. I went down with my family to see the wall in Washington, D.C. It was quite moving, but I shed a few tears and let it go. I came home alive. A lot of guys didn’t.”
When he left the service, Hogan was a first lieutenant and had earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Air Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, three Purple Hearts, the Good Conduct Medal, the Vietnam Service Metal for five campaigns, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Parachutist Badge and the Army Aviation Badge.
The following is an excerpt from Capt. David Korponai’s letter sent July 13 1967 to award Hogan with his Bronze Star:
“While in an ambush position, Specialist Hogan observed an enemy element enter the killing zone of the ambush. Shortly after the ambush was triggered Specialist Hogan was wounded by grenade fragments. With complete disregard for his own safety, Specialist Hogan refused medical aid and remained exposed to the murderous enemy fire while firing his machine gun until the enemy unit had been destroyed.”
The following is an excerpt from the announcement of Hogan being awarded with a Distinguished Service Cross in May 1967:
“… Hogan distinguished himself. .. while serving as a fire team leader of an airborne infantry platoon on combat operations near Duc Pho. While moving along a ridgeline, his company was heavily attacked by a well entrenched Viet Cong force firing automatic weapons. Seeing a wounded comrade trapped in the open, Specialist Hogan dashed from the rear of the column under a hail of enemy bullets and dragged the man to safety. Grabbing several hand grenades, he charged through the fire now concentrated on him and destroyed one enemy bunker. Heedless of the bullets striking all around him he charged another bunker and killed the defenders with another hand grenade. He saw a wounded comrade nearby and quickly began carrying him to safety under a barrage of fire. A Viet Cong soldier stood up to fire on him, but he grabbed the wounded man’s rifle and killed the insurgent with a deadly burst of fire. After moving the man to the perimeter, he ignored his own safety to grab his rifle and more grenades and again assault the fortifications singlehandedly. Firing furiously, he destroyed another bunker with well-placed grenades. Shouting for his fire team to follow, he quickly knocked out another bunker and moved inside to pick up enemy weapons. Leading his men in a fierce charge, he swept through the hostile positions and aided in destroying four more Viet Cong fortifications.”
Hogan said that when he saw a wounded comrade he “popped.”
“Our unit was all very tight,” he said. “I saw three or four guys were hit and severely wounded and I just popped. It wasn’t a matter of courage, I didn’t even think of that. I just knew I needed to help my buddy, so that’s what I did. It wasn’t planned.”
Hogan said returning home after the war was a difficult transition.
“I was very used to the Army, but I didn’t have the education to stay in as an officer,” he said. “People did not treat us well in general when we returned home. For some reason, Vietnam veterans didn’t get the respect or support that they should have. A lot of guys were spat upon and had a lot of nasty things done to them. I never ran into any of that, but I did run into some people running their mouths. It was easy enough to take care of that. I didn’t put up with any crap from anyone.”
Hogan said the last member from his unit that he had remained in contact with died recently.
He has chosen not to become a member of veterans’ groups and doesn’t often speak of his service. Hogan said that his father, who served as a Marine in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, ingrained “a lot of values” in him including “to not being a braggart.”
“People see what you do and you get what you earn is what he would tell me,” said Hogan.
Hogan first met Jackson, who served three tours in Vietnam as a medic, on the golf course. The two became fast friends and later participated in the Golden Kielbasa Veterans’ Open in Farmington.
“Once we started playing together, Earl would get very excited about my service,” said Hogan. “He sometimes embarrassed me when he brought it up in front of others.”
“What we’re looking for is to have someone look at what he has done,” said Jackson, who served as a combat medic and a paratrooper with the 173rd Airborne Brigade from 1965 to 1968, serving in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. “John is a born warrior. What he did was phenomenal. Every single military person, without exception, who has read his citations has said that he deserved the Medal of Honor.”
Through Jackson, Hogan also met Secondo, who has worked with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Chairman Tom Pandolfi to try to get Hogan the recognition they feel he deserves.
“Looking at his record, it’s obvious that this man deserves commendation from Washington,” said Secondo. “It’s just astounding what he did. The Vietnam War was a tough war, and those that fought in it, especially those on the front lines, deserve a lot of credit for what they did.”
“People read my citations and I get a lot of praise,” said Hogan. “It’s not easy to accept. I do want the Medal of Honor and I’m very appreciative that Earl and the others have invested so much time in me.”
Hogan has traveled to Washington, D.C. to speak with the secretary of defense and has also visited Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal to request that his case be re-considered, but says that he feels like he is getting nowhere.
“I’ve told Earl and the others to leave it alone, but they always start back up again,” said Hogan. “We’ll see what happens.”
“The key is that we need legislative support from our local senators and congressmen,” said Jackson. “We need them behind us to help cut through the red tape and we have been trying for years.”
This year, the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be hosting an event Oct. 8 at 1 p.m. where a Connecticut War Medal will be presented to anyone who served in Vietnam.
For more information, call 860-832-2977.
Bill May liked to tell anyone who would listen about the philosophy of well-known retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who had a unique way of dealing with adversity, one that resonated with Bill.

As Bill told the story Willink, an Iraq War veteran and SEAL Team Commander who earned the Bronze and Silver Stars, would frequently encounter subordinates lamenting bad news, a personal problem or a seemingly insurmountable setback.

“They’d come up to him and say ‘I didn’t get promoted’ and Jocko would say ‘well, good. That will give you an opportunity to prove yourself for the next promotion board,’” Bill would recall. “The mission got cancelled? ‘Well, good,’ Jocko would respond, ‘that gives you the chance to go out and plan the next mission better so that we can succeed.’

“The whole idea of Jocko’s leadership style was that when something bad occurs, there's always something good that can come of it,” Bill would conclude. “It struck me, as this was how I tried to shape my Army leadership style, as well.”

Bill’s affection for this story, and reflections on how best to deal with adversity, will surprise few who knew him, particularly in recent years as he valiantly battled cancer before losing that battle on December 3. The manner in which Bill May took on the challenge of his life was a microcosm of a life lived with eternal optimism, confidence, good humor and selflessness, a life that profoundly impacted others and – in House of Heroes Connecticut – left a legacy that will carry on for years to come.

“Bill May was a humanitarian, always was,” says his good friend and colleague Ron Kwalek. “Anytime anyone needed any help for a cause, Bill was ready to serve. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around all the time. His energy, his knack for innovation, ability to gather people together and motivate them was, well, just incredible.

“You couldn’t help but want to be on Bill’s team.”

William J. “Bill” May III was born in Newark, Delaware in 1957, the only child of William J. May, Jr. and Mary Eastburn May. It was while attending the University of Delaware in the late ‘70s that Bill enlisted in ROTC leadership training, setting the foundation for a life of service.

Upon graduation, Bill’s 24-year career in the Army began in earnest as he was selected for flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He spent three years as a maintenance officer and test pilot in Germany, then came back to the States to serve as Director of Combat Development at the Aviation Logistic School at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In that role he was specifically responsible for developing the requirements of future Army aircraft.

Bill left active duty and joined Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut in 1985, the same year he joined the Connecticut National Guard. Over the next two decades, Bill would become dually qualified as a Black Hawk test pilot for the Connecticut National Guard, and play an integral role in the growth cycle of Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. 

During his tenure at Sikorsky, where Bill spearheaded government business development, he contributed to and led efforts that resulted in a doubling of the original Black Hawk government requirement and the complete modernization of the U.S. Army National Guard helicopter fleet. Bill was proud to say that during this remarkable run with both Sikorsky and the U.S. Army, he was able to “apply the best practices of each for the benefit of both.”

The list of Bill’s accomplishments is long, but it was his graduation from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., in 2000 that inspired him to continue a life of service long after leaving the military.

“That experience changed his life,” says Bill’s wife Carol, who met Bill in college and, along with Bill, raised a family of three, including son Bill IV and daughters Kelley and Kaitlin, over the course of a marriage lasting 36 years. “Bill always felt that there was something more he needed to do, some kind of help he could provide to veterans.”

The answer came one day in 2012 when Bill’s good friend, Steve Cavanaugh, founder and president of Biltmore Construction in Hamden, came calling.

“I had a little tap on my shoulder, something I had experienced before, telling me it was time to use my talent as a craftsman to help others,” says Steve. “I just knew I had to call my friend Bill. Knowing the kind of guy Bill was, I knew he would be interested in anything having to do with giving back.”

The two founded the Connecticut Chapter of House of Heroes in 2012, and the rest is history. Carol and the two families became core support “staff.” Bill’s aunt in Delaware, Kathy Eastburn, a Delaware Air National Guard Brigadier General who had recently retired after 36 years of service, was recruited to serve as executive director. While Steve enlisted fellow volunteer craftsmen and managed jobs, Bill handled the big picture, marketing and branding the organization, raising awareness, nurturing community and corporate support and setting the stage for organizational growth.

Since 2012, House of Heroes Connecticut has provided home renovations to more than 75 Connecticut military and public safety veterans and their surviving spouses. Bill was also chairman of the Georgia-based national organization, which has served more than 900 since its founding in 2000.

It was Bill’s ability to inspire others to serve alongside him that so many remember.

“The wheels in Bill’s mind were always turning,” says Kathy Eastburn. “Whatever goal we had reached was never enough because he recognized the number of veterans out there in need. He always had his arms wide, pulling more people into the fold.

“That’s what he was best at.”

“I think the thing that was so striking about Bill is that when he got excited about something, he got you excited about it, too,” says friend, colleague and videographer Mark Stevenson. ”People got swept up in the wake of his positivity. Bill was a master at getting people to do what he wanted.”

Bill was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November, 2014. But true to his nature and outlook on life, he took on the challenge with gusto and positivity.

“The temptation for people going through something like that is to give up on life, to close the book on service and significance,” says the founder of House of Heroes National, Wayne Anthony. “Bill May represented a unique kind of person. He could have said I’m through, but instead he made an incredible attempt to stay in the game.

“Bill May laid down his life for this cause. His gift to us was not only his service to others, but that he inspired others to serve, as well.”

Added Kathy, “Bill never, ever lacked for confidence. He was determined he was going to win the cancer challenge, and he stepped up his sense of urgency to get things done.

“Bill used to put his own twist on the saying, ‘he who has the most toys wins,’ by saying, ‘he who has the most friends wins,” Kathy continues. “Well, he won that one, because he had hundreds and hundreds of friends. At the end, though, I think he must have changed it again to ‘he who gives the most back wins.’ That was the mission he carried on with him to the end of his life.”

The last week of Bill’s life epitomized his perseverance. On Sunday, November 27, his last day in his home on Cobblestone Drive in Hamden, he held a meeting of family and HOHCT team members around his kitchen table to, as Carol says, “make sure we were all on the right track, that we knew our marching orders moving forward, and that his vision for House of Heroes wouldn’t die.” Knowing he was heading the next morning to Hospice in Branford, Bill spoke remarkably of the prospect of establishing a “satellite office” there.

Others go to Hospice to die. Bill May was going there to work.

At the Army Aviation Association of America Summit in Atlanta last April, Bill, knowing full well deep down inside that his time in this life was limited, was in full House of Heroes mode, rallying AAAA chapters to join in on his “Operation HOHAAAA” national service challenge, promoting House of Heroes’ partnership with Stanley Tools and its Build Your America project, and spreading the HOH gospel of honoring service with service.

Sitting so appropriately in the belly of a Black Hawk helicopter on the Georgia World Conference Center convention floor, he reflected on his life, his service and the challenge he faced.

“What drives me is the need to go out and help others. I've served my entire life, in one way or another. I view this cancer challenge as a unique opportunity to gain strength from others, to inspire others and have them inspire me,” he said. “It's given me the strength to get up every day, reload and re-engage, to go out on the constant battle every day to fight cancer, to go out and inspire others to face whatever challenges they may be having in their daily lives. I draw inspiration from those who gather around me, those that I meet, those that we are able to help. It's truly been the best year of my life.

“We're all time limited on this earth. Some of us have a more definitive schedule than others, but that shouldn't stop any of us from reaching out to others when we can, to the person that's standing right next to us, to give them help, give them a hand, give them a leg up.

“If everyone would co-operate in that type of thinking, the world would be a lot better place.”
Bill May liked to tell anyone who would listen about the philosophy of well-known retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who had a unique way of dealing with adversity, one that resonated with Bill.

As Bill told the story Willink, an Iraq War veteran and SEAL Team Commander who earned the Bronze and Silver Stars, would frequently encounter subordinates lamenting bad news, a personal problem or a seemingly insurmountable setback.

“They’d come up to him and say ‘I didn’t get promoted’ and Jocko would say ‘well, good. That will give you an opportunity to prove yourself for the next promotion board,’” Bill would recall. “The mission got cancelled? ‘Well, good,’ Jocko would respond, ‘that gives you the chance to go out and plan the next mission better so that we can succeed.’

“The whole idea of Jocko’s leadership style was that when something bad occurs, there's always something good that can come of it,” Bill would conclude. “It struck me, as this was how I tried to shape my Army leadership style, as well.”

Bill’s affection for this story, and reflections on how best to deal with adversity, will surprise few who knew him, particularly in recent years as he valiantly battled cancer before losing that battle on December 3. The manner in which Bill May took on the challenge of his life was a microcosm of a life lived with eternal optimism, confidence, good humor and selflessness, a life that profoundly impacted others and – in House of Heroes Connecticut – left a legacy that will carry on for years to come.

“Bill May was a humanitarian, always was,” says his good friend and colleague Ron Kwalek. “Anytime anyone needed any help for a cause, Bill was ready to serve. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around all the time. His energy, his knack for innovation, ability to gather people together and motivate them was, well, just incredible.

“You couldn’t help but want to be on Bill’s team.”

William J. “Bill” May III was born in Newark, Delaware in 1957, the only child of William J. May, Jr. and Mary Eastburn May. It was while attending the University of Delaware in the late ‘70s that Bill enlisted in ROTC leadership training, setting the foundation for a life of service.

Upon graduation, Bill’s 24-year career in the Army began in earnest as he was selected for flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He spent three years as a maintenance officer and test pilot in Germany, then came back to the States to serve as Director of Combat Development at the Aviation Logistic School at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In that role he was specifically responsible for developing the requirements of future Army aircraft.

Bill left active duty and joined Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut in 1985, the same year he joined the Connecticut National Guard. Over the next two decades, Bill would become dually qualified as a Black Hawk test pilot for the Connecticut National Guard, and play an integral role in the growth cycle of Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. 

During his tenure at Sikorsky, where Bill spearheaded government business development, he contributed to and led efforts that resulted in a doubling of the original Black Hawk government requirement and the complete modernization of the U.S. Army National Guard helicopter fleet. Bill was proud to say that during this remarkable run with both Sikorsky and the U.S. Army, he was able to “apply the best practices of each for the benefit of both.”

The list of Bill’s accomplishments is long, but it was his graduation from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., in 2000 that inspired him to continue a life of service long after leaving the military.

“That experience changed his life,” says Bill’s wife Carol, who met Bill in college and, along with Bill, raised a family of three, including son Bill IV and daughters Kelley and Kaitlin, over the course of a marriage lasting 36 years. “Bill always felt that there was something more he needed to do, some kind of help he could provide to veterans.”

The answer came one day in 2012 when Bill’s good friend, Steve Cavanaugh, founder and president of Biltmore Construction in Hamden, came calling.

“I had a little tap on my shoulder, something I had experienced before, telling me it was time to use my talent as a craftsman to help others,” says Steve. “I just knew I had to call my friend Bill. Knowing the kind of guy Bill was, I knew he would be interested in anything having to do with giving back.”

The two founded the Connecticut Chapter of House of Heroes in 2012, and the rest is history. Carol and the two families became core support “staff.” Bill’s aunt in Delaware, Kathy Eastburn, a Delaware Air National Guard Brigadier General who had recently retired after 36 years of service, was recruited to serve as executive director. While Steve enlisted fellow volunteer craftsmen and managed jobs, Bill handled the big picture, marketing and branding the organization, raising awareness, nurturing community and corporate support and setting the stage for organizational growth.

Since 2012, House of Heroes Connecticut has provided home renovations to more than 75 Connecticut military and public safety veterans and their surviving spouses. Bill was also chairman of the Georgia-based national organization, which has served more than 900 since its founding in 2000.

It was Bill’s ability to inspire others to serve alongside him that so many remember.

“The wheels in Bill’s mind were always turning,” says Kathy Eastburn. “Whatever goal we had reached was never enough because he recognized the number of veterans out there in need. He always had his arms wide, pulling more people into the fold.

“That’s what he was best at.”

“I think the thing that was so striking about Bill is that when he got excited about something, he got you excited about it, too,” says friend, colleague and videographer Mark Stevenson. ”People got swept up in the wake of his positivity. Bill was a master at getting people to do what he wanted.”

Bill was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November, 2014. But true to his nature and outlook on life, he took on the challenge with gusto and positivity.

“The temptation for people going through something like that is to give up on life, to close the book on service and significance,” says the founder of House of Heroes National, Wayne Anthony. “Bill May represented a unique kind of person. He could have said I’m through, but instead he made an incredible attempt to stay in the game.

“Bill May laid down his life for this cause. His gift to us was not only his service to others, but that he inspired others to serve, as well.”

Added Kathy, “Bill never, ever lacked for confidence. He was determined he was going to win the cancer challenge, and he stepped up his sense of urgency to get things done.

“Bill used to put his own twist on the saying, ‘he who has the most toys wins,’ by saying, ‘he who has the most friends wins,” Kathy continues. “Well, he won that one, because he had hundreds and hundreds of friends. At the end, though, I think he must have changed it again to ‘he who gives the most back wins.’ That was the mission he carried on with him to the end of his life.”

The last week of Bill’s life epitomized his perseverance. On Sunday, November 27, his last day in his home on Cobblestone Drive in Hamden, he held a meeting of family and HOHCT team members around his kitchen table to, as Carol says, “make sure we were all on the right track, that we knew our marching orders moving forward, and that his vision for House of Heroes wouldn’t die.” Knowing he was heading the next morning to Hospice in Branford, Bill spoke remarkably of the prospect of establishing a “satellite office” there.

Others go to Hospice to die. Bill May was going there to work.

At the Army Aviation Association of America Summit in Atlanta last April, Bill, knowing full well deep down inside that his time in this life was limited, was in full House of Heroes mode, rallying AAAA chapters to join in on his “Operation HOHAAAA” national service challenge, promoting House of Heroes’ partnership with Stanley Tools and its Build Your America project, and spreading the HOH gospel of honoring service with service.

Sitting so appropriately in the belly of a Black Hawk helicopter on the Georgia World Conference Center convention floor, he reflected on his life, his service and the challenge he faced.

“What drives me is the need to go out and help others. I've served my entire life, in one way or another. I view this cancer challenge as a unique opportunity to gain strength from others, to inspire others and have them inspire me,” he said. “It's given me the strength to get up every day, reload and re-engage, to go out on the constant battle every day to fight cancer, to go out and inspire others to face whatever challenges they may be having in their daily lives. I draw inspiration from those who gather around me, those that I meet, those that we are able to help. It's truly been the best year of my life.

“We're all time limited on this earth. Some of us have a more definitive schedule than others, but that shouldn't stop any of us from reaching out to others when we can, to the person that's standing right next to us, to give them help, give them a hand, give them a leg up.

“If everyone would co-operate in that type of thinking, the world would be a lot better place.”
Bill May liked to tell anyone who would listen about the philosophy of well-known retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who had a unique way of dealing with adversity, one that resonated with Bill.

As Bill told the story Willink, an Iraq War veteran and SEAL Team Commander who earned the Bronze and Silver Stars, would frequently encounter subordinates lamenting bad news, a personal problem or a seemingly insurmountable setback.

“They’d come up to him and say ‘I didn’t get promoted’ and Jocko would say ‘well, good. That will give you an opportunity to prove yourself for the next promotion board,’” Bill would recall. “The mission got cancelled? ‘Well, good,’ Jocko would respond, ‘that gives you the chance to go out and plan the next mission better so that we can succeed.’

“The whole idea of Jocko’s leadership style was that when something bad occurs, there's always something good that can come of it,” Bill would conclude. “It struck me, as this was how I tried to shape my Army leadership style, as well.”

Bill’s affection for this story, and reflections on how best to deal with adversity, will surprise few who knew him, particularly in recent years as he valiantly battled cancer before losing that battle on December 3. The manner in which Bill May took on the challenge of his life was a microcosm of a life lived with eternal optimism, confidence, good humor and selflessness, a life that profoundly impacted others and – in House of Heroes Connecticut – left a legacy that will carry on for years to come.

“Bill May was a humanitarian, always was,” says his good friend and colleague Ron Kwalek. “Anytime anyone needed any help for a cause, Bill was ready to serve. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around all the time. His energy, his knack for innovation, ability to gather people together and motivate them was, well, just incredible.

“You couldn’t help but want to be on Bill’s team.”

William J. “Bill” May III was born in Newark, Delaware in 1957, the only child of William J. May, Jr. and Mary Eastburn May. It was while attending the University of Delaware in the late ‘70s that Bill enlisted in ROTC leadership training, setting the foundation for a life of service.

Upon graduation, Bill’s 24-year career in the Army began in earnest as he was selected for flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He spent three years as a maintenance officer and test pilot in Germany, then came back to the States to serve as Director of Combat Development at the Aviation Logistic School at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In that role he was specifically responsible for developing the requirements of future Army aircraft.

Bill left active duty and joined Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut in 1985, the same year he joined the Connecticut National Guard. Over the next two decades, Bill would become dually qualified as a Black Hawk test pilot for the Connecticut National Guard, and play an integral role in the growth cycle of Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk. 

During his tenure at Sikorsky, where Bill spearheaded government business development, he contributed to and led efforts that resulted in a doubling of the original Black Hawk government requirement and the complete modernization of the U.S. Army National Guard helicopter fleet. Bill was proud to say that during this remarkable run with both Sikorsky and the U.S. Army, he was able to “apply the best practices of each for the benefit of both.”

The list of Bill’s accomplishments is long, but it was his graduation from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., in 2000 that inspired him to continue a life of service long after leaving the military.

“That experience changed his life,” says Bill’s wife Carol, who met Bill in college and, along with Bill, raised a family of three, including son Bill IV and daughters Kelley and Kaitlin, over the course of a marriage lasting 36 years. “Bill always felt that there was something more he needed to do, some kind of help he could provide to veterans.”

The answer came one day in 2012 when Bill’s good friend, Steve Cavanaugh, founder and president of Biltmore Construction in Hamden, came calling.

“I had a little tap on my shoulder, something I had experienced before, telling me it was time to use my talent as a craftsman to help others,” says Steve. “I just knew I had to call my friend Bill. Knowing the kind of guy Bill was, I knew he would be interested in anything having to do with giving back.”

The two founded the Connecticut Chapter of House of Heroes in 2012, and the rest is history. Carol and the two families became core support “staff.” Bill’s aunt in Delaware, Kathy Eastburn, a Delaware Air National Guard Brigadier General who had recently retired after 36 years of service, was recruited to serve as executive director. While Steve enlisted fellow volunteer craftsmen and managed jobs, Bill handled the big picture, marketing and branding the organization, raising awareness, nurturing community and corporate support and setting the stage for organizational growth.

Since 2012, House of Heroes Connecticut has provided home renovations to more than 75 Connecticut military and public safety veterans and their surviving spouses. Bill was also chairman of the Georgia-based national organization, which has served more than 900 since its founding in 2000.

It was Bill’s ability to inspire others to serve alongside him that so many remember.

“The wheels in Bill’s mind were always turning,” says Kathy Eastburn. “Whatever goal we had reached was never enough because he recognized the number of veterans out there in need. He always had his arms wide, pulling more people into the fold.

“That’s what he was best at.”

“I think the thing that was so striking about Bill is that when he got excited about something, he got you excited about it, too,” says friend, colleague and videographer Mark Stevenson. ”People got swept up in the wake of his positivity. Bill was a master at getting people to do what he wanted.”

Bill was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November, 2014. But true to his nature and outlook on life, he took on the challenge with gusto and positivity.

“The temptation for people going through something like that is to give up on life, to close the book on service and significance,” says the founder of House of Heroes National, Wayne Anthony. “Bill May represented a unique kind of person. He could have said I’m through, but instead he made an incredible attempt to stay in the game.

“Bill May laid down his life for this cause. His gift to us was not only his service to others, but that he inspired others to serve, as well.”

Added Kathy, “Bill never, ever lacked for confidence. He was determined he was going to win the cancer challenge, and he stepped up his sense of urgency to get things done.

“Bill used to put his own twist on the saying, ‘he who has the most toys wins,’ by saying, ‘he who has the most friends wins,” Kathy continues. “Well, he won that one, because he had hundreds and hundreds of friends. At the end, though, I think he must have changed it again to ‘he who gives the most back wins.’ That was the mission he carried on with him to the end of his life.”

The last week of Bill’s life epitomized his perseverance. On Sunday, November 27, his last day in his home on Cobblestone Drive in Hamden, he held a meeting of family and HOHCT team members around his kitchen table to, as Carol says, “make sure we were all on the right track, that we knew our marching orders moving forward, and that his vision for House of Heroes wouldn’t die.” Knowing he was heading the next morning to Hospice in Branford, Bill spoke remarkably of the prospect of establishing a “satellite office” there.

Others go to Hospice to die. Bill May was going there to work.

At the Army Aviation Association of America Summit in Atlanta last April, Bill, knowing full well deep down inside that his time in this life was limited, was in full House of Heroes mode, rallying AAAA chapters to join in on his “Operation HOHAAAA” national service challenge, promoting House of Heroes’ partnership with Stanley Tools and its Build Your America project, and spreading the HOH gospel of honoring service with service.

Sitting so appropriately in the belly of a Black Hawk helicopter on the Georgia World Conference Center convention floor, he reflected on his life, his service and the challenge he faced.

“What drives me is the need to go out and help others. I've served my entire life, in one way or another. I view this cancer challenge as a unique opportunity to gain strength from others, to inspire others and have them inspire me,” he said. “It's given me the strength to get up every day, reload and re-engage, to go out on the constant battle every day to fight cancer, to go out and inspire others to face whatever challenges they may be having in their daily lives. I draw inspiration from those who gather around me, those that I meet, those that we are able to help. It's truly been the best year of my life.

“We're all time limited on this earth. Some of us have a more definitive schedule than others, but that shouldn't stop any of us from reaching out to others when we can, to the person that's standing right next to us, to give them help, give them a hand, give them a leg up.

“If everyone would co-operate in that type of thinking, the world would be a lot better place.”
Bill May liked to tell anyone who would listen about the philosophy of well-known retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink, who had a unique way of dealing with adversity, one that resonated with Bill.

As Bill told the story Willink, an Iraq War veteran and SEAL Team Commander who earned the Bronze and Silver Stars, would frequently encounter subordinates lamenting bad news, a personal problem or a seemingly insurmountable setback.

“They’d come up to him and say ‘I didn’t get promoted’ and Jocko would say ‘well, good. That will give you an opportunity to prove yourself for the next promotion board,’” Bill would recall. “The mission got cancelled? ‘Well, good,’ Jocko would respond, ‘that gives you the chance to go out and plan the next mission better so that we can succeed.’

“The whole idea of Jocko’s leadership style was that when something bad occurs, there's always something good that can come of it,” Bill would conclude. “It struck me, as this was how I tried to shape my Army leadership style, as well.”

Bill’s affection for this story, and reflections on how best to deal with adversity, will surprise few who knew him, particularly in recent years as he valiantly battled cancer before losing that battle on December 3. The manner in which Bill May took on the challenge of his life was a microcosm of a life lived with eternal optimism, confidence, good humor and selflessness, a life that profoundly impacted others and – in House of Heroes Connecticut – left a legacy that will carry on for years to come.

“Bill May was a humanitarian, always was,” says his good friend and colleague Ron Kwalek. “Anytime anyone needed any help for a cause, Bill was ready to serve. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around all the time. His energy, his knack for innovation, ability to gather people together and motivate them was, well, just incredible.

“You couldn’t help but want to be on Bill’s team.”

William J. “Bill” May III was born in Newark, Delaware in 1957, the only child of William J. May, Jr. and Mary Eastburn May. It was while attending the University of Delaware in the late ‘70s that Bill enlisted in ROTC leadership training, setting the foundation for a life of service.

Upon graduation, Bill’s 24-year career in the Army began in earnest as he was selected for flight school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He spent three years as a maintenance officer and test pilot in Germany, then came back to the States to serve as Director of Combat Development at the Aviation Logistic School at Fort Eustis, Virginia. In that role he was specifically responsible for developing the requirements of future Army aircraft.

Bill left active duty and joined Sikorsky Aircraft in Connecticut in 1985, the same year he joined the Connecticut National Guard. Over the next two decades, Bill would become dually qualified as a Black Hawk test pilot for the Connecticut National Guard, and play an integral role in the growth cycle of Sikorsky’s UH-60 Black Hawk.

During his tenure at Sikorsky, where Bill spearheaded government business development, he contributed to and led efforts that resulted in a doubling of the original Black Hawk government requirement and the complete modernization of the U.S. Army National Guard helicopter fleet. Bill was proud to say that during this remarkable run with both Sikorsky and the U.S. Army, he was able to “apply the best practices of each for the benefit of both.”

The list of Bill’s accomplishments is long, but it was his graduation from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington, D.C., in 2000 that inspired him to continue a life of service long after leaving the military.

“That experience changed his life,” says Bill’s wife Carol, who met Bill in college and, along with Bill, raised a family of three, including son Bill IV and daughters Kelley and Kaitlin, over the course of a marriage lasting 36 years. “Bill always felt that there was something more he needed to do, some kind of help he could provide to veterans.”

The answer came one day in 2012 when Bill’s good friend, Steve Cavanaugh, founder and president of Biltmore Construction in Hamden, came calling.

“I had a little tap on my shoulder, something I had experienced before, telling me it was time to use my talent as a craftsman to help others,” says Steve. “I just knew I had to call my friend Bill. Knowing the kind of guy Bill was, I knew he would be interested in anything having to do with giving back.”

The two founded the Connecticut Chapter of House of Heroes in 2012, and the rest is history. Carol and the two families became core support “staff.” Bill’s aunt in Delaware, Kathy Eastburn, a Delaware Air National Guard Brigadier General who had recently retired after 36 years of service, was recruited to serve as executive director. While Steve enlisted fellow volunteer craftsmen and managed jobs, Bill handled the big picture, marketing and branding the organization, raising awareness, nurturing community and corporate support and setting the stage for organizational growth.

Since 2012, House of Heroes Connecticut has provided home renovations to more than 75 Connecticut military and public safety veterans and their surviving spouses. Bill was also chairman of the Georgia-based national organization, which has served more than 900 since its founding in 2000.

It was Bill’s ability to inspire others to serve alongside him that so many remember.

“The wheels in Bill’s mind were always turning,” says Kathy Eastburn. “Whatever goal we had reached was never enough because he recognized the number of veterans out there in need. He always had his arms wide, pulling more people into the fold.

“That’s what he was best at.”

“I think the thing that was so striking about Bill is that when he got excited about something, he got you excited about it, too,” says friend, colleague and videographer Mark Stevenson. ”People got swept up in the wake of his positivity. Bill was a master at getting people to do what he wanted.”

Bill was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in November, 2014. But true to his nature and outlook on life, he took on the challenge with gusto and positivity.

“The temptation for people going through something like that is to give up on life, to close the book on service and significance,” says the founder of House of Heroes National, Wayne Anthony. “Bill May represented a unique kind of person. He could have said I’m through, but instead he made an incredible attempt to stay in the game.

“Bill May laid down his life for this cause. His gift to us was not only his service to others, but that he inspired others to serve, as well.”

Added Kathy, “Bill never, ever lacked for confidence. He was determined he was going to win the cancer challenge, and he stepped up his sense of urgency to get things done.

“Bill used to put his own twist on the saying, ‘he who has the most toys wins,’ by saying, ‘he who has the most friends wins,” Kathy continues. “Well, he won that one, because he had hundreds and hundreds of friends. At the end, though, I think he must have changed it again to ‘he who gives the most back wins.’ That was the mission he carried on with him to the end of his life.”

The last week of Bill’s life epitomized his perseverance. On Sunday, November 27, his last day in his home on Cobblestone Drive in Hamden, he held a meeting of family and HOHCT team members around his kitchen table to, as Carol says, “make sure we were all on the right track, that we knew our marching orders moving forward, and that his vision for House of Heroes wouldn’t die.” Knowing he was heading the next morning to Hospice in Branford, Bill spoke remarkably of the prospect of establishing a “satellite office” there.

Others go to Hospice to die. Bill May was going there to work.

At the Army Aviation Association of America Summit in Atlanta last April, Bill, knowing full well deep down inside that his time in this life was limited, was in full House of Heroes mode, rallying AAAA chapters to join in on his “Operation HOHAAAA” national service challenge, promoting House of Heroes’ partnership with Stanley Tools and its Build Your America project, and spreading the HOH gospel of honoring service with service.

Sitting so appropriately in the belly of a Black Hawk helicopter on the Georgia World Conference Center convention floor, he reflected on his life, his service and the challenge he faced.

“What drives me is the need to go out and help others. I've served my entire life, in one way or another. I view this cancer challenge as a unique opportunity to gain strength from others, to inspire others and have them inspire me,” he said. “It's given me the strength to get up every day, reload and re-engage, to go out on the constant battle every day to fight cancer, to go out and inspire others to face whatever challenges they may be having in their daily lives. I draw inspiration from those who gather around me, those that I meet, those that we are able to help. It's truly been the best year of my life.

“We're all time limited on this earth. Some of us have a more definitive schedule than others, but that shouldn't stop any of us from reaching out to others when we can, to the person that's standing right next to us, to give them help, give them a hand, give them a leg up.

“If everyone would co-operate in that type of thinking, the world would be a lot better place.”