Californian by birth, William J. Sidebottom was 6 months old when he arrived in Arkansas to live with and be raised by his grandparents, the late William Elmer and Ruth May Hood Sidebottom of Fountain Lake.
He grew up playing soldier, and he sensed from an early age that military service would play a large role in his life. As Sidebottom told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2015, “it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
He enrolled at Arkansas Tech, completed the U.S. Army ROTC program and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in geology in 1967.
Now a resident of Virginia, Lt. Col. Sidebottom returned to his adopted home state on Saturday, May 11, to accept induction into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction.
Sidebottom fondly recalls his ATU classroom experiences with such professors as the late David Krueger in history and Dr. Richard Cohoon in geology. Cohoon was among those in the audience for Sidebottom’s remarks on induction day.
“(Krueger) instilled a love of geography that I cherish to this day,” said Sidebottom. “My wife Susan and I have traveled the world over. Professor Krueger has always accompanied us in spirit. Dr. Cohoon was not just a teacher. He was a mentor, an advisor and a friend. I remember his lectures, his professionalism and his caring for his students, which I have carried to this day.”
Recipient of the Distinguished Military Graduate award at ATU, Sidebottom served two combat tours in Vietnam. While wounded and under intense enemy fire, he earned the Silver Star for rescuing six of his fellow soldiers, four of whom were seriously wounded, to safety in an ambush near the Cambodian border on Feb. 17, 1969.
Sidebottom attended helicopter flight school in 1970 and volunteered for his second tour in Vietnam, where he flew CH-47 Chinook helicopters in support of the 101st Airborne Division in northern South Vietnam and Laos.
He also received four Purple Heart medals, a Bronze Star, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and 14 air medals for his service in southeast Asia.
Sidebottom retired from active duty in 1990 and later assisted the U.S. Army in transforming its logistics and financial programs while working at SAP.
He was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans Hall of Fame in 2015 and the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps Hall of Fame in 2017. In addition, Sidebottom was among 12 individuals in the inaugural class of the ATU ROTC Hall of Honor during Homecoming 2017.