(WTRF) – To quote the great Hershel “Woody” Williams “the cause is greater than I.” That was his motto, and he lived it. 

Williams had a love of country that manifested into a life devoted to serving the veteran community. 

Woody was a legend. All of us have fond memories of Woody and I don’t think there’s a person in West Virginia that did not know Woody or know what he stood for and what he fought for.

Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia

A legendary hero with and unwavering love of country. 

Last World War II Medal of Honor recipient, West Virginia native Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams dies at 98

Anyone who new Woody Williams would tell you the same; his spirit was bright, and his energy seemed everlasting. 

He developed a spirit, a light out of that and a purpose and if you were around him you could see the light. 

John Looney, Director, Wheeling Vet Center

His purpose was advocating for veterans and Gold Star Families. 

As the daughter of a World War II veteran myself it brought me to tears many times to hear what Woody was doing and how he felt and the patriotism that he always felt. 

Through the Woody Williams Foundation, Williams helped bring Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments to communities in all 50 states, including several here in the Ohio Valley. These served to honor those who died for our freedom and the families they left behind.

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia

At each dedication he gave a speech and the captivating way Williams expressed his patriotism will never be forgotten. 

It wasn’t a loud way, but everybody was so quiet and listened. They were so attentive to what he was saying and it was amazing.  

One time he was speaking at the Italian Festival and the high school band started playing down the street and no one heard the band. It was really disruptive, but they all were really attentive to him.

John Looney, Director, Wheeling Vet Center

Looney remembers Williams visiting the Wheeling Vet Center whenever he was in the area and the stories he would tell when sitting down with his fellow veterans.

His heroics in World War II will never be forgotten. 

In the Marine Corps Woody Williams is a legend on what he accomplished at Iwo Jima, but also how he served his nation from that day forward and never left. There’s still tales about him. They still talk about him and study about Woody.

Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia

He was the last Medal of Honor recipient from the “Greatest Generation” and Williams actions were certainly worthy of the title. However, he was humble and would frequently say he wore the Medal of Honor for those who didn’t get to come home.

Woody was giving a talk one time and they kept saying ‘this man single-handedly took out seven pill boxes and six different times he ran back and got cannisters for flame throwers’.

He said ‘let me tell you about that. There’s nothing single handedly about what I did. I was the point person. I had two Marines giving me protection and they got killed. They died giving me protection to do my job, so how could I did that single-handedly?’

Beyond that, his service will leave a lasting legacy of its own. 

Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia

That type of humbleness I think is unbelievable.

“The cause is greater than I”, which is why Woody’s final wish was that people continue to carry on his mission. 

They love their country and they love the freedom and they realize how important it was to protect and go to something beyond service beyond self. 

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, (R) West Virginia

Senator Manchin told 7News that he visited Williams just a few days ago and he was still advocating for veterans. Manchin said among his final wishes were that he and Senator Capito make sure an enclosure was built at a state veterans cemetery so families have a place to say goodbye to their loved ones. 

If you’d like to learn more about the work the Woody Williams Foundation does across the country click here.