At the age of 90 you’d think retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer-4, Woody Williams would be kicking back on the front porch with some sweet tea or out fishing enjoying retirement. Instead, he’s on a mission, moving faster than most drill instructors at Parris Island, working on his foundation’s project to honor Gold Star families.
Woody, who was also awarded the Purple Heart, is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Because he has literally devoted his life to the service of his country and his fellow veterans, it’s no surprise he was chosen as Guardian of the Republic in the military category.
After leaving the Marine Corps in 1969, Woody went to work for the VA helping fellow veterans and also served as Chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for 35 years. He currently travels the country talking to school children about citizenship and continues to represent the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and his own foundation.
Woody grew up on a dairy farm and drove a taxi as a young man in his home state of West Virginia. As was the practice during those times, one of Woody’s tasks as a taxi driver was delivering telegrams to the families of fallen soldiers. Making those deliveries, and witnessing the suffering of the families as they received the news, was one of the reasons, some 70 years later, that Woody Williams felt led to encourage national recognition of those families.
Woody established the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation in 2012 based on his own principals for life: embracing the indomitable courage demonstrated by the recipients of America’s highest military honor for valor as an ideal that should endure in all ways of life; supporting sacrifice and service above self; and committing to support and defend the freedoms we enjoy as Americans. The Foundation is involved in education and character building in young Americans, recognizing citizen heroes, creating wall memorials to honor Medal of Honor recipients, and creating Gold Star monuments to honor the families who sacrificed so much for our country.
Woody’s goal is to place a Gold Star monument in every veteran’s cemetery in the United States. The first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was unveiled in 2013 in Dunbar, West Virginia. Two more have since been completed and the foundation is currently working in nine cities to help city residents design and fund their own memorials to honor their Gold Star families. You can learn more about the Medal of Honor Foundation or help honor the Gold Star families at the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.