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A Final Salute to Hershel 'Woody' Williams

The passing of Hershel "Woody" Williams at age 98 marks not just the death of a hero, but the end of a line of heroes of the Greatest Generation.

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams smiles with a flag in the background.
Gold Star
Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams interacts with attendees at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument groundbreaking ceremony in Charleston, W.Va., July 27, 2019. The Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments are a nationwide project of the Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation which honors honors the families who have lost loved ones in service to the nation.
Photo By: Edwin Wriston, Army
VIRIN: 190727-Z-FC129-0009

Williams was the last surviving World War II recipient of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor. The son of dairy farmers from Quiet Dell, West Virginia, Williams received the medal for his heroic actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima. 

He said later that, when asked where bravery comes from, he was never able to answer the question satisfactorily. 

"I feel that our upbringing had some influence on our bravery because we were taught in the Depression years, if you didn't have it, you had to make it," Williams said. "And the only way you could make it was to work at it. Our upbringing gave us the confidence that developed into bravery."

President Truman talks to Marine.
Honors to Williams
President Harry Truman congratulates Hershel "Woody" Williams, a Marine Corps reservist, on receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima.
Photo By: Courtesy Photo
VIRIN: 120214-M-RX595-123

Williams was discharged in 1945, but stayed in the Marine Corps Reserve until his retirement. He continued to serve through his foundation, the Woody Williams Foundation, which honors families who have lost a loved one in service to their country.

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In 2020, the Navy commissioned the expeditionary sea base USS Hershel "Woody" Williams in his honor.

"May all those who serve aboard this ship that will bear my name be safe and be proud," Williams said at the commissioning. "And may she have God's blessings for a long life of service to the greatest country on earth.”


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