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Living history: Medal of honor recipients speak at Nevada Military Support Alliance event

Oct 11 2018
Shakala Alvaranga | Las Vegas Now

Hershel "Woody" Williams is the last surviving Marine from World War II to wear the Medal of Honor. 

"He's 95 years old. He got his medal from President Truman if you can believe it," said Scott Bensing, Chairman of the Nevada Military Support Alliance.  

Williams used a flamethrower to attack enemy machine gun pillboxes during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He didn't even know what the Medal of Honor was when he received it.  

"When I received the medal, I became a public figure representing not myself, but representing them. From that day on, my life took on a completely new path that I never dreamed I would be on," said Williams.  

He and Donald "Doc" Ballard, a paramedic in the Vietnam war, spoke at the South Point Hotel and Casino Thursday night to show their support for the Nevada Military Support Alliance. 

The Nevada Military Support Alliance held a reception and panel discussion with Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients Hershel “Woody” Williams and Colonel (Ret) Donald E. “Doc” Ballard. The goal, Bensing says, is to assist in furthering the mission of the Nevada Military Support Alliance and to provide funding for the creation and construction of Nevada’s Gold Star Memorials.  

"One day he was with 4 or 5 Marines helping them and someone threw a hand grenade in the middle of them all. Doc jumped on the hand grenade. It did not go off. He got up, threw it, it went off and he went on to evacuating wounded Marines," said Bensing.  

He called it the worst job in Vietnam. But, it was also the most rewarding.  

"That's why we have a bond that the civilians will never have. Until your life is in danger and you look around and the only people there to help you is the guy on the right and the guy on the left," said Ballard.  

Ballard believes he saved 76 lives. He said the Medal of Honor is bigger than life. It's an award he'll never take for granted. 

"I wear it for all the guys that died that didn't come home that died allowing me to live by saving my life," said Ballard. 

Williams is working to create a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument in every state in the United States. Meanwhile, Ballard is a funeral director. Sometimes, he says life comes full circle. He provides services free-of-charge to Veterans. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Medal of Honor Society.