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State of the Hero: Medal of Honor recipient gets top billing at State of the State

Jan 09 2020
Jeff Morris | WCHS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — The most thunderous applause at West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s State of the State address Wednesday wasn’t for any of his proposals or the props he used.

It was for a 96-year-old West Virginia war hero – Medal of Honor of recipient Woody Williams, who the governor mentioned and then invited to the podium, even moving one of his props – a tackle box – to make room.

“We’ve got a Medal of Honor recipient. It’s unbelievable. You talk about a hero,” Justice told lawmakers and others gathered in the House of Delegates’ chambers. “I mean, you may think you’re important. I may think I’m important. We can’t hold a candle to this man.”

Justice added what Williams is doing for Gold Star Families – families who have lost an immediate family member in the line of duty of military service – is “off the charts.” Williams has been backing an effort to have Gold Star family memorial monuments constructed across the country. One is planned at the West Virginia Capitol.

“I don’t know how our thunderous applause could thank him any more . . . but please Woody Williams, stand, and let’s absolutely give him the applause that he deserves,” Justice said.

After standing and receiving a huge ovation, Williams asked the governor if he could say a few words, and Justice invited him to the podium.

“We’re going to have a monument on the Capitol grounds that will be two times the size of anybody else’s in the country, because we are West Virginia,” Williams said.

Williams said the momentum for Gold Star family memorial monuments is building.

“We’re currently in 45 states in this country’s communities. We’ve lost count of those. But they have put up a Gold Star family memorial monument to honor those families that gave more than any of us. They gave one of their loved ones, so we can be free,” Williams said.

The decorated veteran said 63 more are in progress across the country. Seven communities in West Virginia have put up a Gold Star monument, and four more are in progress.

“It’s happening all over the country because of the big hearts and the love that people show for those who gave so much of a sacrifice,” Williams said.

With many state residents tuned in, Williams made the most of his opportunity. He noted that the Gold Star monument planned at the West Virginia Capitol is $12,000 short of its fundraising goal.

“I’m hoping we can get $12,000 out of him,” Williams said, motioning toward the governor.

Justice didn’t hesitate to say he was on board.

“Well, I’ll tell you what. You can keep that little orange jacket (Division of Highways vests crews handed out during his address), and I’ll give you the $12,000 tomorrow out of the contingency fund. And you stay away from my hatchet,” the governor said, referring to another one of his speech props.

Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific during World War II. Under heavy machine gun fire, he used a flamethrower and set explosives to wipe out seven pillboxes.