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Medal of Honor recipient dedicates Gold Star Family Memorial

May 18 2021
Mark Archibald | Corsicana Daily Sun

Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last Medal of Honor recipient to have served in World War II, visited Corsicana over the weekend. Williams was in town to dedicate the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument on the grounds of the Navarro County Courthouse Saturday, May 15.

A flyover of the event was conducted by members of the Commemorative Air Force’s Coyote Squadron.

Through his Medal of Honor foundation, Williams began the effort to establish Gold Star Family Memorial Monuments in each of the 50 states and territories. The Navarro County monument is the 76th, and the only one thus far to be located on a courthouse’s grounds.

Williams said the purpose of the monument is to give those who have lost a family member in the service of our county a place to gather, remember, and grieve.

“We are happy to be here to dedicate this monument in front of this great crowd today,” he said. “What we really like to see is the families continue to visit after the people here have gone home.”

Williams said he considers himself a caretaker of the nation’s highest and most prestigious military decoration awarded to those who distinguish themselves for acts of valor in combat.

Williams was recommended for the Medal of Honor following his actions Feb. 23, 1945 on the island of Iwo Jima, where he used a flame thrower to clear seven fortified pillboxes in four hours. Williams actions on that day are credited with assisting American advancement to the objective across the seven and a half square mile island.

At an event dubbed “An Evening with Woody Williams” hosted by the Palace Theatre in Corsicana Friday evening, Williams, a member of the First Battalion 21st Marine Regiment Third Marine Division, discussed some of his experiences during his 33 days on Iwo Jima, as well as his past battle experience on Guam.

The dedication included a radio program performance piece by Dr. Shellie O’Neal, Navarro College’s Director of Theater.

The event was made possible by the lead sponsor, Community National Bank and Trust of Texas, under the leadership of the Texas Veterans Day Parade Board of Directors.

The Parade Board presented several awards Friday. Barbara Watkins was the winner of the 2021 Jim Acree Award, created for the volunteer of the year who did not serve in the military.

The inaugural Barton/Wright Award was presented to Navarro County Judge H.M. Davenport. The award will be given annually to a government official who has demonstrated love for veterans and done the most to promote the mission of the organization during the past year.

The Texas Governor Buford Jester award is given to the volunteer of the year with military service experience, this year’s award winner is Billy Richards.

Bill McNutt was presented the Navarro Garcia Patriot Award for self-service and leadership to veterans in Corsicana and beyond. Previous winners included Fiske Hanley and Hershel “Woody” Williams.

Gold Star families placed flowers at the foot of the monument to honor the sacrifice of those who gave all to ensure our freedom.