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1998 Distinguished Graduate Award

Mr. Bernard W. Abrams '47 

As a valiant and decorated combat infantryman whose military career was cut short when he was medically retired as a result of wounds received in action in Korea, Bernard W. Abrams returned to civilian life to become a successful businessman, community, state and federal volunteer, philanthropist, and friend of West Point whose myriad activities exemplify the principles of Duty, Honor, Country.
Upon graduation in 1947, Abrams served with the 26th Infantry on occupation duty in Europe before being assigned as a platoon leader of the 81mm Mortar Company of the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea in 1950. During this combat tour he also served as a battalion assistant operations officer and a company commander, was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Bronze Star with “V” device and the Silver Star, and was twice wounded in action. During the dark days of the withdrawal to and evacuation of Hungnam in December of 1950, Abrams’ unit was one of the last to depart the beleaguered port. His second wound, received in September of 1951, eventually ended his military career, leading to his retirement for disability.
Major General U.S. Grant, grandson of President Grant and classmate of General Douglas MacArthur, also a patient at Walter Reed at the time, advised Abrams to take medical retirement and said, “You can serve the Army better on the outside.” His words were highly prophetic. Returning to the family business, Abrams worked hard to serve the Army, eventually becoming civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for seven years, from 1978 to 1985, and achieving civilian aide emeritus status in 1985. For this service he was recognized with the Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award. He also was honored by the Association of the United States Army with their General Creighton W. Abrams medal in 1990 for “the development of programs to benefit the Army community” and by the United Services Organization (USO) with their World and National Board of Governors Awards and the State of Georgia Patriot Award for his service to that organization devoted to the welfare of our soldiers.
In 1953, Abrams was one of the original founders of the West Point Society of Atlanta, served as its first secretary and, later, during 1959–62, as president. He also is active in Admissions, having first served as Chairman of the Appointments Committee for the 5th Congressional District of Georgia in 1968–70, and remains involved to the present day. In 1987 he established the Westminster Schools West Point Award for tenth and eleventh grade students in the Atlanta area and saw several recipients of the award go on to receive appointments to West Point. Equally important, a number of other students who did not receive the award also became interested in West Point and successfully competed for appointments.
Abrams was one of the original members of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Chapel and a generous contributor to the Jewish Chapel Building Fund. He also contributed funds to support general cadet activities as well as those of the Jewish Cadet Chapel Squad. Additionally, he served as White House Liaison for the Jewish War Veterans, U.S. A. and as a Jewish Welfare Federation fundraiser.
As Chairman and President of the Advisory Board, Atlanta Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, Abrams was honored with the coveted Silver Beaver Award. After serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Abrams Industries, Inc. from 1972 to 1995, he now continues to serve as the Chairman of the Executive Committee. Throughout his life — in combat, in business, in philanthropic activities — he has sought to make a meaningful contribution to society. Through a lifetime of service to God, country and community, Captain Bernard W. Abrams, U.S. Army Retired, truly epitomizes the principles inherent in the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country.
Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes great pride in presenting the 1998 Distinguished Graduate Award to Bernard William Abrams, USMA Class of 1947.

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