Oct 02 2023
Chris Lawrence | WV Metro News
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Close to a thousand people turned out Monday to witness the unveiling of the 131st Gold Star Family Memorial Monument in the United States. However, this one may have been one of the most special of all. The monuments were the work of late Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams and the one in Huntington was extra special to him.
This was literally his last dying wish,” said his grandson Brent Casey who serves on the Board of the Woody Williams Foundation. “He wrote this proposal and it was passed unanimously by the city of Huntington and the Parks Department a week before he passed. So, he knew it was going to happen.”
The unveiling came on what would have been Williams’ 100th birthday. Williams started the effort to erect the monuments across America as a reminder of the sacrifice made not only by those killed in defense of the nation, but their loved ones left behind.
“My dad’s mission was to give those left behind a place to come where they could know that we as Americans will never forget. It gives those families a place to meet with others who share their pain and understand their loss,” said Tracie Ross, Williams’ daughter.
The monument stands in Huntington’s Memorial Park at the intersections of Memorial Boulevard and 11th Avenue. It sits opposite the Memorial Arch which honors the Huntington men killed in World War I.
“This monument now also honors their families,” said Williams’ grandson Brent Casey.
“He wanted this monument as a reminder to all of us that freedom is not free and that families sacrifice loved ones in the military so that we can be free. They just had a special place in his heart,” Casey added.
The dedication fittingly included performances by Huntington Native and Broadway performer J. Mark McVey who sang Williams’ favorite song “Bring Him Home.” Closing out the dedication ceremony was country music recording artist Lee Greenwood who spoke to the crowd and sang his signature song “God Bless the USA.”
“We must never forget those who have sacrificed and because of this beautiful monument here at the park, it will be a reminder that Woody Williams stood for all of the rest of those who have sacrificed so much for my freedom, my family’s freedom, and for all of us.”