A Wisconsin Army National Guard officer that mobilized eight times in the past year in response to civil unrest while simultaneously volunteering for a number of community organizations and working for her church received the prestigious 1st Lt. Thomas E. Wortham IV Award during a June 28 ceremony in Milwaukee.
Capt. Alicia Dorsett, the battalion logistics officer for the Oak Creek, Wisconsin-based 1st Battalion, 121st Field Artillery, earned the award, given annually to a Wisconsin National Guard Soldier or Airman for exceptional service to both community and the military.
The award is named for the late 1st Lt. Thomas E. Wortham IV, who served in both Troop A, 105th Cavalry and the Chicago Police Department. The Chicago native was also the president of the Cole Park Advisory Council in Chatham, and worked to make the neighborhood safe for children to play in area parks. He was murdered May 19, 2010 outside his parents’ Chicago home when four men attempted to steal his motorcycle. Just months before, he had returned from a year-long combat deployment to Iraq with the 105th Cavalry and the 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Wortham’s parents, Carolyn and Thomas Wortham III, as well as his sister, Sandra, were on hand in Milwaukee for the ceremony, in addition to senior Wisconsin National Guard leaders.
Dorsett, a native of Poy Sippi, Wisconsin, was selected from a statewide pool of nominees for her contributions to her community and the National Guard in 2020. A traditional Soldier, Dorsett spent nearly 10 weeks mobilized in support of the Wisconsin National Guard’s civil unrest responses and supporting the Wisconsin Elections Commission as a poll worker amidst a statewide shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic. She mobilized on eight separate occasions for various civil unrest missions in Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha, Green Bay, and Wauwatosa, in addition to working full-time for her church where she mentors youth, helps administer the church’s early childhood education programs and the children’s choir. In addition, she serves as the director of administration for the Badger Honor Flight program spending countless hours preparing flights for veterans to Washington D.C.
Upon receiving the award, Dorsett reflected on Wortham and the impact he had and continues to have on those who knew him.
“When I was laying in my tent last night after watching a beautiful sunset at Fort McCoy, I remembered something our chaplain asked us to reflect on a few days ago,” she said. “If this was your last day on earth, how would you choose to live it? I thought of 1st Lt. Wortham. While I did not have the honor of meeting him, I know that 1st Lt. Wortham lived every day to its fullest selflessly serving his community and the Wisconsin Army National Guard. I know that he lived by the Army values every day, that he had a lot of people who loved him, and that he had a lasting impact on those he met.”
After thanking her parents, her unit leadership, and recognizing the Wortham family in attendance, Dorsett praised Wortham and his legacy.
“First Lt. Wortham is the example of a great and humble person, and I wish I had the privilege to serve with him,” she said. “So the answer to the chaplain’s question for me would be, ‘if today were my last day on earth, I would want to live it like 1st Lt. Wortham lived his life – selflessly, serving my community, and helping the people that I love.’”
Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, reflected on the contributions of both Dorsett and Wortham.
“When I’m asked what I’m most proud of in the Wisconsin National Guard, the thing that comes to mind first is the professionalism of the Soldiers and Airmen,” Knapp said. “And really that’s what we’re here to discuss and celebrate today with both of these families.”
“Capt. Dorsett – thank you for being such a high caliber and professional Soldier and living up to and far exceeding the expectations that I have for this organization,” Knapp added. “As members of the Wisconsin National Guard, we are all part of something larger than ourselves and so proud to be Citizen Soldiers and Airmen. On behalf of the Wisconsin National Guard, please join me in congratulating Capt. Dorsett on this well-deserved honor.”
Brig. Gen. Joane Mathews echoed that sentiment and noted that Wortham and his legacy embodied the Citizen Soldier spirit.
“You are a true example of how the Wisconsin National Guard is woven into the fabric of our communities,” Mathews said.
“Capt. Dorsett knows the importance of giving back to the community, because it’s the same community that we rely on to support our families and our employers when we are called to serve,” she said.
Dorsett’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Daniel Hendershot, listed the many contributions Dorsett makes to her community while also noting that she is a natural leader who will soon take command of one the battalion’s firing batteries – a feat that will represent a first for a female in the organization.
“When you think about who is representing your son’s legacy, she is the perfect person for it,” Hendershot told the Wortham family. “So I think you can rest easy knowing that she will go forward and she’ll continue to use this accolade – this recognition that you’ve been so gracious to give her – for the rest of her life.”
For the Wortham family, seeing this award presented annually has a special meaning.
“We’re honored that the award was created and that there’s an award given in our son’s name, but more important than that, when (Carolyn) and I are gone, and even when (Sandra) is gone, the award will still be here, which means his legacy, what he did, will live on forever,” said Wortham’s father, Thomas Wortham III. “That’s so important to me.”
His mother Carolyn, remembered her son’s kind, caring nature.
“He was always community-focused,” she said. “He always wanted to help everyone.”
Wortham’s sister, Sandra, credited her parents for raising people like her brother, who wanted nothing more than to serve and give back to their communities.
“They raised us to do stuff in the community,” she said. “You’re a part of the community, so you owe a duty to your community, so you work for your community, so you help your neighbors, and do things like that. He was like that, because that’s who they are.
“It just highlights the fact that we have to acknowledge that people who serve us in these capacities, who do these dangerous jobs are our neighbors and we should thank them and appreciate them, because they go to war, or they go out on the streets as a police officer, and they’re also working at a church, as she is, or working in the community like Tommy did,” she said.
The 1st Lt. Thomas E. Wortham IV award is presented annually to a member of the Wisconsin National Guard after a board reviews nominations from units across both the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard. Despite the fact that all National Guard members are Citizen Soldiers and Airmen who live and work in their communities, the Wortham Award is unique as one of the sole ways to recognize a Citizen Soldier or Airman for their contribution to their communities and excellence in military service. The Chicago Police Department also has a similar award in honor of Wortham and his legacy.