Men with Moxie: John Harlan Willis

Both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans and they enjoyed regaling me with tales of their adventures. One grandfather was on a ship sunk in the Mediterranean, swam to shore, ended up in Egypt, and eventually bummed his way back up to England. There are countless of exceptional stories about WWII. I mean, that’s why the History Channel used to be WWII 24/7/365. One such story is the tale of Medal of Honor recipient John Harlan Willis–our Man of Moxie for this Week.

Mr. John Harlan Willis joined the Navy back in 1940 and was promoted multiple times throughout his service. His tour was relatively uneventful until the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. (Did you know Iwo Jima means “Sulfur Island”? That’s gross.)

baby-faced bravery

There he was injured and ordered to return to a battle aid station. But men with Moxie don’t easily retreat. Disobeying orders, he pushed to the front through artillery and sniper fire. At the extreme front of the line, he found an injured marine in a shell-hole. There, he calmly began administering blood plasma to the dying marine. But this is where Willis turned up the Moxie to 11.

Having just started the blood plasma, a Japanese grenade landed in the hole, which Willis looked at, shrugged, and tossed back. Then, seven more grenades came flying into the hole in quick succession. So, positively dripping with Moxie, Willis calmly threw back each one.

One handed. Because, he was busy administering a blood plasma the whole time 

Finally, the Japanese figured out that they were in fact battling Babe Ruth (Japanese Kamikaze pilots would sometimes yell “to hell with Babe Ruth!” before crashing their ships. They thought that was a pretty fine insult) and decided to throw a cooked grenade. This last grenade thrown would also be the final grenade, as it exploded in Willis’ hand killing him instantly.

But it doesn’t stop there. Motivated by his valor Moxie, his companions, though vastly outnumbered, rallied and pushed back the Japanese troops. So I’d say Willis’ actions alone justify a holiday. But there are millions more like him. Maybe we should just go ahead and make it Memorial Week.

Cheers to you John Harlan Willis.

(Have a great suggestion for our next Men with Moxie post? Let us know @mancrates )

A West Virginia Miracle

Man Crates and TroopSwap send personalized barware crates as prizes
Man Crates and TroopSwap sent prize crates to the Armed Forces Winter Salute

Going Above and Beyond

It was 5:28 PM on Friday, quittin’ time on a cold February day in the hills of West Virginia.  Randy was closing up Glade’s hardware supply when the phone rang one last time- all he had to do was let the machine get it and he’d be on his way into a relaxed weekend. He answers the phone, and an amazing chain of events begins to unfold…

Team Man Crates and TroopId were sponsoring the prize giveaways at the Armed Forces Winter Salute in Snowshoe that weekend.   We’d recently launched our streamlined military discounts page and were psyched to help out with an awesome event for the troops and their families.

Glade’s Hardware and Snowshoe Resort- a good 36 miles away

Somehow our packages got separated during shipping, and that fateful Friday we realized that the troops were going to get their crates without crowbars.  Have you ever tried to open a Man Crate without a crowbar? It’s like trying to tear clamshell plastic packaging with fingers covered in bacon grease. We were in a pickle.

Our first thought was to  overnight a package to the event, but when we told every courier service the West Virginia address we were trying to send the package to they laughed us off

“Saturday delivery? To the top of a mountain in West Virginia?  Sorry, we can’t offer that service.”

Time was running out and in desperation we started cold-calling every hardware store within a hundred miles of the resort thinking maybe we could arrange for a local courier to make a last minute pick-up and delivery on our behalf.

The Call Goes Through

We’d tried a few places with no luck before Randy answered the phone.  He was just closing the register for the day so I quickly explained the situation as best I could, but I must have sounded crazy- it’s not everyday that someone wants to buy out your crowbars and send them to the top of a mountain. Randy patiently waited while I started from the top- “We deliver awesome gifts that you open with a crowbar- yes, it really takes a crowbar- and we need replacements for the troops’ prize giveaway tomorrow.”  By this point it was well past closing time, but Randy took up our cause.

He searched the store for as many crowbars as we needed- scrounging a few different models together to make sure there was one for every crate we’d sent.  He then personally called the event coordinator, a friend of his, and arranged for his son to sacrifice his Friday night and do an immediate delivery up the mountain.

We send Randy and Cody some Man Crates swag for saving the day

  Randy refused every offer we could make to pay for the extra service, insisting over and over that:

“That’s just the way we do business around here.”

Thanks to Randy and Cody the The Bull Riding champion, the Wounded Warrior Slalom winner, the Zipline Divebomb champion, and all the others- each had crowbars to open their sweet, sweet victory Man Crate.  We were all reminded of our mission as a customer service team- take up the cause and stop at nothing to get the job done.

Thanks Randy and Cody.

Beers on us if you’re ever out our way.