CHARLESTON, WV (WVDN) – Gov. Jim Justice announced that Hershel “Woody” Williams has become the first-ever inductee into the new West Virginia Military Hall of Fame.
A native of Quiet Dell, WV, Williams was America’s last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient. He passed away on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, surrounded by his family at the VA hospital near Huntington named in his honor. He was 98 years old.
Gov. Justice announced earlier today that he had officially nominated Williams for the honor. The West Virginia Veterans Council met today and unanimously voted to induct Williams.
“I couldn’t be more proud to announce Woody as the first inductee into our new West Virginia Military Hall of Fame,” Gov. Justice said. “Woody Williams was a man whose life was extraordinary beyond belief. Not only was his bravery on the battlefield unmatched, but he spent a lifetime going all across America as a tireless advocate for Veterans. He was a wonderful friend to so many and a true American hero to all of us. His induction as the first member of this Hall of Fame is an incredibly fitting tribute to his lifetime of service.”
Established by the passage of House Bill 4406 during the 2022 Legislative Session, the purpose of the West Virginia Military Hall of Fame is to honor those Veterans from West Virginia who went above and beyond the call of duty on the battlefield and who continued to distinguish themselves in service after their return to the state, contributing significantly to West Virginia or the Veteran community.
Williams was the last of 473 American service members who received a Medal of Honor in WWII.
As a member of the United States Marine Corps, he served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. His actions in the battle contributed significantly to its outcome and saved many American lives. As a result of the heroism Williams displayed, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman on October 5, 1945.
Williams materially improved the lives of countless Veterans while working as a Veterans Service Officer for the federal VA for 33 years, after which he focused on improving the circumstances of homeless Veterans as a primary advocate for and first director of the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance Barboursville Veterans Home, a VA-supported domiciliary.
In the decades following the war, Williams used his platform to lead the charge in an effort to honor America’s Gold Star servicemen and women – those who paid the ultimate price by giving their life in defense of America – as well as the families of the fallen.
To date, Woody and his foundation are responsible for establishing over 100 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in all 50 states and 1 U.S. Territory, with over 70 additional monuments currently underway. The nation’s first Gold Star monument was dedicated at the Donnel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Institute. Another such monument at the West Virginia State Capitol is the largest in America.
“Woody Williams is the obvious choice for the first inductee into the West Virginia Military Hall of Fame and I commend Governor Justice for making this announcement official,” said West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance Cabinet Secretary Edward Diaz. “Woody fought tirelessly for our country and for Veterans for far longer than most of us have been alive. There is no doubt that he will be missed. At the same time, however, there is no doubt that his memory will live on forever. He is an all-time West Virginia military legend and a worthy first West Virginia Military Hall of Fame inductee.”
Williams will Lie In State at the West Virginia Capitol Building on Saturday, July 2, 2022. A State Memorial Service in Williams’ honor will be held at the Capitol on Sunday, July 3, 2022. Additional details regarding these arrangements will be announced as soon as they become available.