BARBOURSVILLE, W.Va. — West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel Woody Williams will be one of the five grand marshals for the New York City Veterans Day parade on Monday.
The now 96 year old Williams
appreciates the honor.
“It’s quite a challenge for me and certainly a tremendous honor for a little old West Virginia country boy to be invited to a parade like that, but I’m quite thrilled about it and looking forward to it,” he said.
The challenge for Williams is the unknown about the Big Apple’s weather. He attended the same parade several years ago and was caught without enough cold weather gear and the temperatures plunged. He credited an unknown individual who gave him a blanket to help him get through the event. This time, he’ll be more prepared.
“I’m taking my long johns,” laughed Williams.
Carrying the responsibility to his fallen comrades at Iwo Jima, Williams has been part of many parades during his life. The largest he said was when he was part of the parade when veterans from Desert Storm returned to New York City, a parade which had an estimated 300,000 spectators. But the most memorable parade for Williams happened in Fairmont when he and fellow veterans returned to Marion County from World War II. It was the largest parade in the history of Fairmont.
“I was a very shy, bashful boy at that time. I was 22 years old and not a public figure by any stretch with no desire to be one, but I was so thrilled and honored by how that city and community turned out like it did. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the best parade I’ve every been in,” he said.
Williams came home from World War II highly decorated and has used his notoriety over the year to further the cause of recognizing veterans. His current crusade is to erect monuments across the country to honor Gold Star Families. There are 57 of the monuments already dedicated and 61 others are under construction and development.
“The communities within the states are getting together, forming committees, and getting these erected,” said Williams. “So those Gold Star Family loved ones are not forgotten. We’re getting about one community a week showing interest.”
West Virginia has seven of the monuments currently erected and there are plans to put a larger Gold Star Family Monument on the West Virginia State Capitol grounds which will be larger than any other across the nation.