A young Hendersonville Marine who lost his life during a refueling training exercise off the coast of Japan in December was honored Sunday with a permanent reminder of his bravery and sacrifice.

Dozens gathered in the Hendersonville High School field house to pay tribute to Cpl. William “Carter” Ross before the unveiling of a monument in Ross’ honor.

Ross, 21, was one of five crew members who died Dec. 6, 2018 when their C-130 transport plane collided with another aircraft during a routine refueling exercise in Iwakuni, Japan. 

Ross participated in Hendersonville High School’s Marine Corps JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp) program for three years before enlisting in the Marine Corps in May of 2016. 

MSMGT Tim Clenney, Ross’ JROTC instructor, recalled meeting the teen as a freshman and watching him grow and mature. 

“I saw him grow to be confident and mature beyond his years,” said Clenney. “He had a servitude heart for his fellow students that seemed to come natural to him. He was an example setter. He was someone I could go to when I needed things done.”

Clenney pointed out that Ross impressed the Marine Corps as well, noting that obtaining the rank of corporal so quickly while working as a C-130 refueler was no small accomplishment. 

Clenney directly addressed his current cadets. 

“After today, for years to come, young new freshmen will come by that memorial that we are dedicating today. They will ask you, upper classmen, who is William Carter Ross?” said Clenney. “Your first response will be he is what we all should strive to become as Americans. He is what true heroes are made of.” 

The dedication service, held on the 244th anniversary of the Marine Corps’ founding, included a marching of the colors presented by the HHS Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard followed by a singing of the National Anthem by HHS Select Chorus members.

Laurie Smith, MCJROTC Booster Club President, read a letter from Hendersonville Mayor Jamie Clary who said he regretted being out of town for the service. 

“All of us owe a huge debt to Corporal Ross and his family,” said Clary.

“I also want to thank the parents of JROTC students. You carry a burden as well,” he wrote. “You know that your children may choose a professional path that could fill you with anxiety and worry. Please know that they will fill you with pride as well. Look at Corporal Ross’s family as the example.”

Todd Ross spoke about how his son overcame his fear of heights in order to eventually become an airman in the Marine Corps. 

“I told him being scared is not a bad thing,” said Ross. “We have to confront our fears head on.”

When the father told his son that he needed to pick one sport and stick with it, Ross said his son chose to join the ROTC program.

“We were proud of the program - we watched him grow,” he said. “We watched all of them grow.”

Ross also remembered his son’s excitement when he enlisted in the Marine Corps.

 “He loved helping other people,” the father added. “He loved his country.” 

The memorial dedicated to Cpl. William “Carter” Ross is located at the JROTC facility near the back entrance of Ellis Middle School.

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