West Virginia Senators Ryan Ferns and Ryan Weld Welcome Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel Williams in Charleston

West Virginia Legislative Services Photo World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, a West Virginia native who is one of four surviving Medal of Honor recipients addresses the West Virginia Legislature last week.

West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, recently welcomed Mountain State native and Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams to the Senate chamber for a ceremony celebrating the adoption of a resolution supporting construction of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument on the Capitol grounds.

Ferns and Weld introduced the resolution.

The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation has 30 Gold Star Families Memorial monuments dedicated across the United States, and another 41 in progress. The first of these memorials was constructed at the Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery in Institute. With the adoption of the resolution, the Legislature authorized the construction of another memorial to be placed on the Capitol grounds.

“Unlike some of the other statues and monuments that encircle this building, the Gold Star Family Memorial that we seek to build recognizes the fallen by honoring those they left behind — their families: The mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of those whose blood was spilled on distant battlefields,” Ferns said. “For many years, these families were overlooked by Hollywood, popular fiction and a nation focused on its new responsibilities as a world leader.”

In addition to the resolution for the memorial, Senators Ferns and Weld also introduced a bill currently before the Senate Finance Committee that would allow a person to donate to state Veterans Affairs agencies when they renewed their driver’s license. The idea also came from Williams, who noted other states give residents this option.

Weld, who also serves as Chairman of the Senate Military Committee and is an active member of the U.S Air Force Reserves, said the bill would go a long way toward funding a new veterans hospital in West Virginia.

“For a person like me, who has worn and continues to wear the uniform as a reservist, it’s a great honor to be here today with someone who served with such distinction, and who served both our nation and our state so admirably,” Weld said of Williams.

Williams told legislators that the 448 West Virginia heroes who sacrificed their lives for America and its freedom during World War II must not be forgotten.

“For some of those families, there was no closure, because their loved one never got to come home,” Williams said. “Yet, we as a country, and as a people, and as a society, have never recognized their loss — the loss of the member of their family — and it’s long past time that we who have had the privilege of living our lives in a free society honor them in a way that their loved ones will not be forgotten.”

Williams is not only the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima, he is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the entire Pacific Theater, and one of only four surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II.


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