Woody Williams is true living history with an incredible story.
Sitting in his favorite chair at his home in Ona, Williams reads out load some of the recent pack of letters sent to him by school children he recently visited.
“I promise to be a true American and I will vote and I will not break a single law,” a laughing Williams read. “Isn’t that wonderful … to think you that something you said would have an influence on someone like that.”
He enjoys taking to students about giving back, being a thankful American … and … sacrifice.
“I guess I had a deep desire to serve,” said Williams.
That desire surfaced early in his life as a teenager 72 years ago. That’s when he found himself among fellow Marines in Iwo Jima fighting one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific campaign.
One the day the famous photo of Marines holding up the American flag at Mt. Suribachi, under constant enemy fire, a determined Marine Corporal Woody Williams put his life on the line many times, destroying enemy positions and leading to victory.
Right after that, when he returned home is when he realized his real fear: a trip to the white house at the request of President Harry Truman.
“I was very scared,” he recalled. “He (Truman) has his hand on this shoulder and I said I think it was to keep me from jumping out of my shoes.”
Keeping his composure, Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor; the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration.
So after all these years … what could even come close to topping that?
How about the idea that a massive naval ship would bare his name and be deployed to the Pacific where Williams once fought.
William’s friend and fellow veteran Ron Robliski started lobbying for the “naming” effort 20 years ago.
“He got individual signatures by the hundreds,” said Williams.
Time went by … and so did the effort … it fizzled out.
“I don’t know if he had given up but I thought this would never happen,” said WIlliams.
A 500-million dollar ship was going to be built, but it didn’t have a name … yet.
Eventually, Williams’ grandson got involved and made a few calls to Washington representatives and last January, the announcement was made by the secretary of the Navy.
The USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams would finally be official!
“I don’t know if I can fully express how deeply I feel about this honor,” said an emotional Williams.
Woody Williams: a humble and brave West Virginia hero who never forgets those who helped him along the way … from the men who saved him during the war … to the people behind this effort, to keep alive his legacy of what’s uniquely American.
“It doesn’t represent just me,” said Williams. “It represents a great number of individuals who sacrificed their life so these types of things can happen in America.”