CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) — Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, World War II Veteran and living legend Hershel “Woody” Williams celebrated his 98th birthday on Saturday.
Williams a native of Quiet Dell in Harrison County, West Virginia, is the nation’s last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient. Hejoined the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division.
Williams received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, from President Harry S. Truman for his “actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism,” the Woody Williams Foundation website says.
Earlier this year, Woody told WOWK 13 News Reporter Erin Noon, he doesn’t credit himself for the honor, but proudly wears the medal for two marines who sacrificed their lives to save his.
Williams has stayed busy during the past year. He helped kick off a flamethrower demonstration at the Military and Veterans Appreciation Picnic and served as the grand marshal for the Ripley 4th of July parade.
“We are so honored to have him lead the state’s largest parade,” Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader said prior to the city’s 4th of July parade. “He is a proud West Virginian who is truly an American hero.”
On Friday, during West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s semi-daily COVID-19 briefing, Justice and retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer both took a moment to wish Williams a happy birthday and thank him for his service to the country.
“On a really great note, I want you all to join me in absolutely expressing the happiest birthday that we can extend to an American Hero, to our own West Virginia Hero Woody Williams,” Justice said. “If anybody has had the ability to listen to this great man speak and think of the feats and what he has conquered in his life and achieved, it’s unbelievable. Absolutely Woody, happy birthday from me and all of this great state. We love you with all our souls and we are so, so, so proud of you.”
“I’ll take the point of privilege as the governor did to wish a happy birthday to my good friend and someone who’s been a mentor for me throughout my time in the leadership of the National Guard, a great American – I call him a National Treasure – and that’s Woody Williams,” Hoyer said. “Not just for the heroic actions at Iwo Jima that led to the Congressional Medal of Honor, but for the work that he’s done tirelessly since he left the service and became a member of the VA and a veteran’s advocate for all of his life, and for all he’s done for all of our Gold Star families, especially our Gold Star mothers.”
Last year on his 97th birthday, Woody told WOWK 13 News Reporter Natalie Wadas, he’s planning on living to 100, and on his 100th birthday, he says he’s going to ride a horse again—something he hasn’t done in years.