95-Year Old Medal of Honor Recipient Giving Back to Gold Star Mothers, Honoring Fallen Kentucky Troops


He’s the last surviving Marine to have been awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II. Now, at 95, Hershel “Woody” Williams is still giving back, this time to Gold Star mothers in Kentucky.

It’s not something you’ll hear a lot about in the press. In fact, it might even seem quotidian. However, it’s a display of what’s great about this country — and the men and women who have served it.

According to Stars and Stripes, Williams is set to be the keynote speaker for the Kentucky Department of the American Gold Star Mothers luncheon on April 6.

Gold Star mothers are mothers who have lost a child in the service of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Williams received the Medal of Honor from President Truman for his “valiant devotion to duty.”

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In the citation for the award, Williams was hailed for his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945.”

“Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions,” it read.

“Covered only by four riflemen, he fought desperately for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another.

“On one occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon.

Do you think Williams is an admirable man?

“His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective,” it continues.

“Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.”

So, all in all, a pretty amazing man — and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Marines who served in the Second World War.

The West Virginia native is also behind a series of monuments honoring Gold Star families.

“The purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen, and stand as a stark reminder that Freedom is not free,” his foundation’s website states.

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Forty-seven monuments have been dedicated thus far with another 53 in progress.

Most of us won’t live to see 95. Even fewer will do even one of the things Hershel “Woody” Williams has done in his lifetime. Even now, he’s still honoring Gold Star families, both through monuments and with speeches like this one in Kentucky.

If you ever have one of those days where you’re losing faith in the American spirit, just look toward men like Williams. It’s not the kind of story you’ll see in the media, but it’s a story we should take a lot more time to celebrate. There’s a reason they call them the Greatest Generation.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture