Nov 16 2020
Sue Straughn | WEAR TV
WEAR — "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty..."
Those are words from the citation presented to Hershel "Woody" Williams; one of only two remaining Medal of Honor recipients from the battle of Iwo Jima. Sue Straughn introduces us to the hero bringing his legacy to the Gulf Coast.
Hershel "Woody" Williams. The distinguished gentleman from rural West Virginia is in Pensacola for the dedication of the 75th Gold Star Families Memorial Monument erected at Veterans Memorial Park. It was built under the direction of his Medal of Honor Foundation. Williams is a former Marine who fought during World War II. He joined the service at 18 right after the country had gone to war. "To protect my country and my freedom. I didn't know anything about war. I didn't know I was going to have to go to the Pacific or anyplace else. I thought, all of us, thought we would stay right here in the United States just to protect our country."
Off he went like so many others, far from home. Woody Williams served his country with distinction in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was deemed a hero for his selfless actions and commitment to his fellow service members. Williams was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman. He returned home and continued his service to others. "I started working for the VA in 1946. I began dealing then with survivors of those who sacrificed their lives; widows, mothers and father. Relatives. Because some of them they have no mother and father. They had their insurance made out to their sister or a brother or somebody else."
Witnessing story after story of heartbreak over the lives lost to war, Williams realized that the pain of "all" family members needed to be recognized and that they needed a place to heal. "I said, we must do something in our state to honor those families, that; they gave more than anybody else."
Through his Foundation, Gold Star Families Memorials are now erected across the country. Each monument has the same front but the back panels are specific to the community in which they're located. "I see these Gold Star families coming together sharing their stories with each other; grieving with each other. And this monument represents their relative."
A grateful nation salutes the contributions of Hershel "Woody" Williams with a naval ship and several state and federal buildings named in his honor. The 93 year old donning perhaps his greatest honor of all; the Medal. An honor he says is not his, but belongs to his brothers in arms. "And I wear it in their honor. Particularly, those who never got to come home and especially for two Marines who on February 23rd, 1945 sacrificed their lives protecting mine. So, I wear it for them. I keep it shined for them, not me."