GALLIPOLIS, Ohio — Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Memorial Day ceremony at Gallipolis City Park.
A member of “the Greatest Generation” who has a U.S. Navy vessel named in his honor, among other accolades, Williams will also be the grand marshal of the Gallipolis Memorial Day Parade which precedes the annual ceremony. The parade steps off at 10:30 a.m. and the program immediately follows at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 31.
The parade and ceremony agenda were recently announced by John Thomas on behalf of the Gallia County Veterans Service Office.
This will be the second visit for Williams to the Ohio Valley Publishing(OVP) area in less than a year. In September he led a parade to honor 100-year old U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Stith of Point Pleasant, W.Va.
During the parade lineup near Stith’s home, Williams, who is the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor, spoke to OVP, explaining why he felt he needed to attend the celebration.
“Not everybody reaches to be 100 years old and besides, he’s a Marine, and we Marines stick together,” Williams said. “So I felt obligated to come and celebrate this day for him, not with him, but for him.”
When asked about his feelings regarding the importance of honoring veterans, particularly at this point in time, he said, “Especially right now, we need to get back to more patriotism than we’ve…, well, we’ve lost it,” Williams said. “I think the veterans are the individuals that if we can all come together and begin thinking together, we can have a tremendous influence on the future of this country.”
From Williams’ official biography:
Hershel “Woody” Williams was born on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. During the battle, Mr. Williams displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective.” Mr. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism were recognized on October 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House. Mr. Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII, to wear the Medal of Honor.
Mr. Williams’ devotion to duty, service members, veterans and their families began long before that battle and before he entered the Corps. As World War II began, Woody came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one. Woody says that those experiences gave him a “greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.” He also noted, “Consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.” This observation and his personal commitment to veterans and their families brought about the creation of the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. The activities of this foundation allow Mr. Williams to continue his devotion and commitment to those who have served and the Gold Star families who have lost Loved Ones to that service above self.
To date, Woody and his foundation are responsible for establishing 76 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 74 additional monuments underway in 50 states. The Foundation continues to grow its reach by being involved in multiple initiatives across the country.
Mr. Williams began his military career with a commitment to country, service members, veterans and families. He continues that commitment through his active engagement with local communities in recognizing and commemorating the service and devotion to duty of our service men and women.
More facts about Williams:
Following the war, Williams worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for 33 years as a Veterans Service Representative, allowing him to continue serving veterans and their families.
He retired after serving 20 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserves. He served as the Commandant of the Veterans Nursing Home in Barboursville, W.Va. for nearly 10 years, helping veterans who were often in their last years of life. Still today, he serves on the Governor’s Military Advisory Board in the State of West Virginia. The West Virginia Legislature included Williams in the West Virginia Hall of Fame and named him a Distinguished West Virginian in 1980 and in 2013.
His name is on the “Wall of Fame” in the Civic Center in the city of Huntington, W.Va., nominated and selected by the former recipients who received this honor.
The U.S. military and its highest officers recognized his actions and recently the Secretary of the Navy named T-ESB 4 (Expeditionary Sea Base Ship 4), the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams mobile base sea vessel. She entered Navy service in early 2018. In 2018, the Huntington VA Medical Center, near Woody’s home in West Virginia, was re-named in his honor.
The Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center has been improving the health of the men and women who have so proudly served our nation since 1932. In his hometown of Fairmont, W.Va., the $32-million dollar Hershel “Woody” Williams Armed Forces Reserve Center is the only National Guard facility in the country named after a Marine. The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Hershel “Woody” Williams Post 7048 in Fairmont and the main bridge in Barboursville, are named for him as well.
Williams has also literally penned dozens of Resolutions to help veterans and other causes in West Virginia and throughout the United States.
The agenda for the 11 a.m. Memorial Day ceremony in Gallipolis is as follows:
Master of Ceremonies and Pledge of Allegiance — John Thomas;
National Anthem — GAHS Band Member;
Invocation — Pastor John Jackson;
Introduction of Commanders — Thomas;
Those commanders include:
Bill Mangus — VFW;
Michael Giese — American Legion Gallipolis;
Robert McCarley — American Legion Vinton;
Keith Jeffers — DAV/AMVETS;
Larry Marr — VVA;
Jim Doss — Marine Corps League;
Jim Oiler — Sons of the Union Veterans.
There will then be a song, then a wreath laying by the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary.
Thomas will introduce Williams who will give remarks.
The ceremony will then include more music from GAHS Band; the “Fallen Veteran’s” reading by Gary Fenderbosch, president of the Veterans Service Commission; presentation of Taps by the Honor Guard; Benediction by Pastor Jackson and finally, the gun salute by the Honor Guard.
As for the Gallipolis Memorial Day Parade, all veteran service organizations, businesses, foundations and other community support groups are invited to participate in the parade.
Individuals or groups interested in participating in the Memorial Day Parade are asked to please contact the Gallia County Veterans Service Office at 740-446-2005 no later than Friday, May 21.
For more information on Williams, visit http://www.hwwmohf.org/
Beth Sergent contributed to this article.
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