Like the brick and stone headquarters building that now bears his name, Maj. Gen. James W. Wurman is an enduring part of the legend that is Fort Dix.
Wurman, who commanded the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Dix from 1988 to to 1991, guided Fort Dix through the tumultuous Base Realignment and Closure round that realigned the post’s mission from initial entry to reserve component training.
The many friends and family members gathered at post headquarters Oct. 9 for the formal dedication ceremony heard several accounts of Maj. Gen. Wurman’s incomparable contributions to Fort Dix.
“When General Wurman accepted the colors during the change of command, he became the 62nd officer to assume the duties of Fort Dix commander,” said Col. David Lowry, installation commander, during the ceremony.
“Fort Dix was very, very lucky that day. The stroke of fortune that brought General Wurman to this post was one of the best things that ever happened here during the 86-year evolution of Fort Dix.
“Why? Simply put -- while some folks were busy wringing their hands, worrying about the past, General Wurman was opening doors to the future.’’
Maj. Gen. Wurman’s view of the future included a new main mission for the installation -- serving as a regional training center for reserve component Soldiers.
“The idea was not initially met with unanimous support,’’ Lowry said, “but the wisdom of General Wurman’s vision is supremely evident today.’’
“I stand before you now and emphatically declare that General Wurman’s vision has been realized. Today, Fort Dix is the Army’s busiest and most successful installation when it comes to training, mobilizing and deploying reserve Soldiers and their units.
Lowry concluded his remarks to the crowd with a twist on another favorite saying of Gen. Wurman’s.
“We admit it. We learned everything we know from the late great General Wurman. We even adopted one of his favorite rules -- ‘Don’t give up. No matter what, don’t ever give up.’ It’s carried Fort Dix through a lot of challenges and many changes.
“As we dedicate the Fort Dix Headquarters building today, to the beautiful and honorable memory of Major General James Wade Wurman, I’d like you all to join me in a collective pledge to the Wurman family and to General Wurman himself.
“From this day forward, may the words forever echo in Wurman Hall: We won’t forget. No matter what, we’ll never forget.’’
Before the official ceremony began, Margaret Wurman stood to thank the crowd for attending the event held in her late husband’s honor.
Col. (Ret.) Michael Warner, who served as both chief of staff for Maj. Gen. Wurman and later as installation commander, brought vivid memories of the general’s time in command.
“I feel like I have taken a step back in time,’’ he said. “He would be pleased with this ceremony. It is reminiscent of one of his favorite events -- Evening Colors, which we held every Friday evening right here . . . . As far as I’m concerned, General Wurman is here with us today.’’
Warner told the crowd that Maj. Gen. Wurman believed in Fort Dix and its value to the military, as well as in all of the people who worked here.
“He appreciated the civilian workforce, and he cared for and believed in you who keep this installation running on a day-to-day basis, regardless of circumstances.
Warner also presented a message from Congressman Jim Saxton, long-time friend of the Wurmans, who is on a tour of the Middle East. “His influence in all our lives is hard to measure,’’ Saxton said in his message, “and this is a fitting honor for him.’’
James Wurman Jr. brought the appreciation of the family and obvious pride in his father to the podium.
“This is a proud moment for our family,’’ he said. “My father spent a lifetime building his military career. He was driven to lead, to teach, to push you over the edge into progress.
“If you weren’t ready to jump, he would pull the cord for you. Either way, you were moving on.”
Wurman recounted one of his father’s favorite sayings: “It ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.’’
“Well, Dad,’’ he concluded, “she ain’t singing yet, and if she ever tries, she’ll have to do it in the shadow of Wurman Hall.’’
Music for the ceremony included a rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a favorite of both Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Wurman.
Wurman was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 1933. He was commissioned a second lieutenant by the National Guard, and served for more than 40 years. He died Nov. 17, 2001, after a lengthy battle with cancer.