HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK)—Medal of Honor Recipient and World War II Veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, 98 died on Wednesday. Williams was born on Oct. 2, 1923, and grew up in Quiet Dell in Marion County, West Virginia.

Williams was the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient. He joined 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 October 5, 1945, from President Harry S. Truman for his “actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism,” the Woody Williams Foundation website says.

Remembering a hero: Woody Williams’ legacy of service

Following his service in WWII, Williams worked to serve veterans and their families as a Veterans Service Representative for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years. He also served as the Commandant for the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, West Virginia for almost 10 years and has served on the Governor’s Military Advisory Board for West Virginia.

Williams was named a Distinguished West Virginian in 1980 and in 2013 and is a member of the West Virginia Hall of Fame. The Huntington VA Medical Center was also renamed the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center in his honor in 2018.

Williams also founded the Woody Williams Foundation which is a non-profit organization that establishes Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments and conducts outreach programs for Gold Star Families.

In March 2020, the U.S. Navy commissioned a warship, the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, in his honor in Norfolk, VA.

Williams was preceded in death by his wife Ruby in 2007. He is survived by his two daughters.

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice offered for Williams to lie in state in the Capitol and has also offered a State funeral to be held for Williams at the State Capitol. 

Gov.Justice issued the following statement on the death of Williams:

“I ask all West Virginians to join Cathy and I in praying for Woody, his family, friends, loved ones, and the entire military community across West Virginia and the United States of America. Pray that, while the weight of this loss is profound, we all will be able to take solace in the fact that Woody’s contributions to our nation inspired generations, cultivated similar bravery, and saved lives. Woody Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived, and we salute him for everything he gave to our state and our nation.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life and during my time as Governor to be able to spend a lot of time with Woody Williams over the years. Woody was a living legend and was the embodiment to the world of what it means to be a West Virginian.

“We are a state of service – with one of the highest rates of military enlistees per capita in the nation – because we are a state where people are willing to lay it all on the line to help their neighbor. We are selfless, courageous, and share a sense of duty to our state and our nation. Woody Williams was the shining example of these traits. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave because of the acts of valor displayed by Woody Williams in the spring of 1945. The tales of his bravery in Iwo Jima doubtlessly inspired generations of West Virginians to follow the call of duty in defense of our nation and our freedoms. 

“But while Woody earned his Medal of Honor by fighting on behalf of America in one of the most important battles in the history of civilization as we know it, we also ought to remember that his service didn’t end when he returned home at the end of that conflict over three-quarters of a century ago. In the decades after, Woody used his platform to lead the charge in another battle: an effort to honor America’s Gold Star families – those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price in defense of our freedoms – through his Woody Williams Foundation. Woody shepherded the construction of 102 Gold Star memorials in all 50 states across America to forever honor everyday Americans who have sacrificed so much. While Woody may be gone from this Earth, his selfless contributions to our state and nation will live on forever.

“Woody was part of what was undoubtedly the greatest generation that ever lived. The bravery displayed by men like Woody Williams across America and throughout West Virginia will likely never be matched, and we have to make sure their sacrifices are never forgotten. There are still many World War II Veterans alive in West Virginia, but they won’t be with us forever. We should all take this as an opportunity to reflect on how much these Veterans mean to us. If you know a World War II Veteran, thank them, love them, talk to them, hear their stories while they’re still with us – it is so important. We need to keep their memories alive because, when the world was at its darkest hour, they were our shining light.”