Jul 22 2022
Pacific Daily News
As the island continues its celebration of Liberation Day, we’d like to remember one of the liberators who continues to help our island heal from the wounds of war, including wars fought in the decades since World War II.
Hershel “Woody” Williams was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. He was born on a West Virginia dairy farm in 1923, enlisted in the Marine Corps in May 1943 and served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal and Guam.
After the liberation of Guam, Williams went on to fight in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was serving with the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division “when he displayed ‘valiant devotion to duty’ and service above self as he ‘enabled his company to reach its objective,’” according to the Woody Williams Foundation website. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Before he enlisted, Williams delivered Western Union telegrams informing Gold Star Families that their loved ones had died in military service. According the foundation’s website, the experience “gave him a ‘greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.’ He noted that ‘consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.’”
The foundation was started to help communities recognize, remember and honor the sacrifices of Gold Star Families.
Among the foundation’s activities is establishing Gold Star Families Monuments across the United States. On Thursday, Guam’s monument was unveiled in Skinner Plaza. It is the first such monument in a U.S. territory and honors fallen service members and their families from Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Williams retired after 20 years of service in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves. He worked for 33 years as a veterans service representative for the Department of Veterans Affairs. A Navy ship named after Williams was put into service in 2018.
Although Williams died on June 29, the work of his foundation lives on. We thank Williams for his service 78 years ago, and his ongoing contributions to communities throughout the country.