Marker given 'visible' home off Broadway

Nov. 4, 2015
Alan Froman
ThisWeek News

The Grove City Gold Star Families Memorial Monument has an official location.

City Council on Nov. 2 voted 4-1 to support placing the monument at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Street. The space will be created when the intersection is realigned as part of the downtown library construction project.

The monument will be a tribute to families who lost loved ones in service to the country.

Steve Bennett cast the only vote against the resolution.

Bennett continued to express concern the memorial could be a dangerous distraction to motorists driving in the high-traffic area.

He also questioned the appropriateness of placing a monument in a commerce-oriented area where Gold Star families might come to reflect and remember those who died.

"The whole purpose of a Gold Star memorial is to be visible," said Grove City police officer John Darnell.

Darnell and police officer Chris White are leading the local project.

The feedback he and White have received from Gold Star families has been "very receptive" to the Broadway and Columbus Street site, Darnell said.

As for being a distraction, Darnell pulled out his cellphone.

"This is what causes distracted driving," he said.

The community has supported the project, as demonstrated by the almost $20,000 that has been raised through just three fundraising events, Darnell said.

The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation has set a goal of placing a Gold Star families monument in every state.

Hershel "Woody" Williams, 92, is the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. He visited Grove City Oct. 26-27, and his time in the city included visits to Central Crossing and Grove City high schools, where he spoke to students.

At Central Crossing, Williams said his Medal of Honor "really doesn't belong to me."

"I'm honored and privileged to wear it and to be the caretaker of it," he said. "It belongs to those Marines who never got to come home."

Those fallen heroes include two of the four Marines designated to guard him on Iwo Jima as he used a flamethrower to help create an opening for infantry.

The country has never had a memorial for the families of the military personnel who have perished, Williams said.

"That's a shame," he said.

When he joined the war effort as a farm boy from West Virginia, Williams said, he had no real concept of what war was like.

He learned fast, first landing on Guam and then moving on to Iwo Jima.

"Circumstances can change our lives," Williams said. "But it isn't the fact that circumstances happen. It's what we do with those circumstances," he said.

Grove City unveils new monument honoring fallen military heroes

Oct. 27, 2015
GROVE CITY, Ohio (WCMH)– As 92-year-old Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams walks through Grove City’s Welcome Center, he’s reminded of the sacrifice others made.

“And I’m free because of them,” said Williams.

Williams wants all who served to never be forgotten, and he’s honoring those men and women with monuments.

The Gold Star Monuments are a way of honoring those mothers, fathers and siblings.

“When they see something that represents them, part of them that says there are those that have not forgotten. And we must never forget,” said Williams, who wants at least one monument in every state.

Grove City resident and Army Specialist Joey Riley was killed in Afghanistan last November, and the city decided to put a plan in place to bring a monument there.

Riley’s sister says the monument will bring even more support and compassion from the community.

Navy naming ship after West Virginia Medal of Honor Marine

Oct. 21, 2015
WASHINGTON — The Navy has announced it will name a ship after Hershel "Woody" Williams, a West Virginia World War II veteran and Medal of Honor recipient.

Multiple media outlets report that the Navy made the announcement Tuesday, months after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., wrote a letter urging them to name a ship after Williams.

Williams says that the ship in question will be an expeditionary sea base. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called Williams on Tuesday morning to tell him the news. Williams was born near Fairmont, W.Va. He enlisted in the Marine Corps and was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division. He earned the Medal of Honor in 1945 for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima, as well as a Purple Heart.

Medal of Honor recipient, 91, works to expand monuments for Gold Star families

Sep. 23, 2015
Cristina Corbin
Fox News
For 91-year-old Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams, the idea of building monuments to honor families of the fallen came some 70 years ago, when a plane carrying his closest childhood friend, an Air Force serviceman, disappeared over an Indian jungle during World War II -- never to be found.

Decades later, Williams, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from the battle of Iwo Jima, would devote himself to placing at least one tribute to Gold Star families in every state -- a project the decorated U.S. Marine called "thrilling and inspirational."

The initiative has so far led to the completion of monuments in five cities -- with an additional 20 planning tributes as a result of Williams' work. On Sunday, a ceremony was held in Fall River, Mass., to break ground on a Gold Star Families' Memorial planned for Bicentennial Park.

"I had a mother at Valley Forge say to me, 'You are the first person who has ever said anything about paying tribute to me over the loss of my son." - Hershel "Woody" Williams, retired U.S. Marine and Medal of Honor recipient

"We want to get a memorial monument in every major community, " said Williams, who was awarded the military's highest honor for his combat service as a Marine in the Battle of Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.

"People realize this is something we should have done a long, long time ago," Williams told from his West Virginia home on Wednesday. "It's unbelievable we've had nothing in this country that actually honors those families."

Under Williams' watch, the first memorial for Gold Star families was unveiled in October 2013 in West Virginia, inside a cemetery named after a Vietnam veteran with seven Purple Hearts. Four other monuments would soon follow -- in Tampa, Fla.; Valley Forge, Pa.; Lafayette, Ind. and Fairfield, Ohio.

"I had a mother at Valley Forge say to me, 'You are the first person who has ever said anything about paying tribute to me over the loss of my son,'" Williams said. "That just tears you apart."

For Williams, the quest to build such monuments is personal. He recalled his boyhood friend, Leonard Brown, who joined the U.S. Air Force during World War II, while Williams enlisted in the Marines.

In 1944, Brown's plane disappeared over an area known as "The Hump" -- a name given by Allied pilots to describe the region over which they flew military transport aircraft from India to China.

Williams said he vividly remembers the pain suffered by the Brown family -- in particular, the young man's mother -- when he returned from the war in November 1945 and visited them.

"Mrs. Brown was still very upset and that had a tremendous impact on me," he said. "I was closer to Leonard than I was my own brothers."

After waiting seven years for word on their son -- declared missing in action -- the Browns were told he was dead, even though no trace of the man or his aircraft was ever found.

Upon Williams' return to the U.S., he worked as a taxi driver in Fairmont, W.Va., and was often tasked with delivering telegrams to families of the fallen.

"We had to get a signature to confirm the delivery," he said. "In many cases, the person would open the telegram before signing for it and then break down."

Decades later, Williams would make good on his promise to create tributes to the military families whose loved ones gave their lives in the line of duty.

The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the U.S. shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war, but Williams said he prefers the term "Gold Star families" because "everyone grieves when somebody is lost."

Williams and his foundation, the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, have set a goal to get a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument in all 50 states. Projects for such tributes are currently under way in cities from Riverside, Calif., to Dallas, Texas, to Rochester, N.Y., Williams said.

The project also has backing from the Obama administration. Williams and his grandson, Brent Casey, the foundation's executive director, met with First Lady Michelle Obama and her staff at the White House in April.

"This changes things and raises things to a whole new level for us," Casey said at the time. "Because we only formed a year and half ago we are just finding our feet and to have the support of the White House will help us greatly in credibility, establishing credence with sponsors… For our foundations at such a young stage to have as great as support as you can get in our country, it's monumental."

On Oct. 5, 1945, Williams visited the White House where President Harry Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty" as a corporal fighting enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23 of that year.

But to the celebrated war hero, who turns 92 next month, his most recent visit to the White House to see his vision realized was his proudest day.

Williams' monument initiative gets White House backing

Aug. 05, 2015 @ 12:01 AM
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation has a goal, and now it has some pretty strong backing — from the White House.

Williams and his foundation staff met with First Lady Michelle Obama and her staff in the East Wing Monday morning. They were joined by staff members of the First Lady and Jill Biden's Joining Forces campaign, a national initiative giving civilians a platform on which to give back to service members and their families, as well as Ryan Robertson, who is in charge of military affairs for President Barack Obama.

Brent Casey, executive Director of the foundation and Williams' grandson, said the East Wing got word of what the foundation is doing and wanted to hear more about it.

The foundation has a goal to get a Gold Star Family Memorial Monument in all 50 states. A Gold Star Family is a family that has lost a loved one who was serving in the Armed Forces.

Casey said the support is monumental for the foundation.

"This changes things and raises things to a whole new level for us," Casey said. "Because we only formed a year and half ago we are just finding our feet and to have the support of White House will help us greatly in credibility, establishing credence with sponsors… For our foundations at such a young stage to have as great as support as you can get in our country, it's monumental."

Casey said the group spent two hours speaking with staff and sharing their dream.

"Our country does it here and there, but really our country and as our history goes, we've never done anything to recognize these families who have sacrificed a family member," Casey said.

He said his grandfather has been to the White House about a dozen times, but other than receiving his Medal of Honor in 1945, this was the biggest day for him.

"He's getting ready to be 92 and to see his vision recognized at the White House, that was just huge," Casey said.

Williams is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Casey said in return for the support, the foundation also pledges to support the Joining Forces initiative.

Center for american values unveils portraits for three Medal of Honor recipients

MOH recipient's goal: Tributes to Gold Star families in all 50 states

With Sunday's dedication of the Pennsylvania Gold Star Families Memorial in Valley Forge, Pa., a project that got its direction from a Medal of Honor recipient's chance meeting with a grieving father is taking a big step forward.

Marine Corps veteran Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last surviving recipient of the nation's highest military honor from the pivotal World War II Battle of Iwo Jima, was giving a speech to a veterans group.

His goal at the time was to find ways to honor Gold Star Mothers, those who lost children in combat.

But afterwards, a man approached him. The man's wife had died before their son joined the military, and when the son was killed in Afghanistan the father was left to grieve alone.

"Tears were rolling down his cheeks," Williams recalled. "The only thing he said to me was, 'dads cry, too.'

Read full press release

Hershel Woody Williams, 2014

Medal of Honor recipient shares memories with Tampa students

Hershel "Woody" Williams received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at Iwo Jima.

"When I wear this medal, I don't just wear it for what I did. It really doesn't belong to me because two marines on February 23, 1945, gave their lives protecting mine," he said to a room full of students at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy in Tampa.

He now works spreading the message of the Gold Star Family monument. It is a tribute to the families of fallen service men and women.

The original monument was established at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in West Virginia.

"Everybody grieves, everybody's heart is broken," Williams said.

Two have already been built, and in five years, he hopes to see one in every state. Florida's monument already has a future home at Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy.

"He is one of the people out there who made it, that we could do this in the first place," said student leadership team member Adam Wallace.

A group of students, including Wallace, first heard Williams' message last summer and wanted to build a monument at their school.

"It is a huge chunk of money; it's not just going to be pocket change around the school," Wallace said,

With nearly $40,000 to raise, students said it's a small sacrifice for a meaningful tribute.

"They're not just anonymous faces out there. They're actual people that are mourning their losses. Now, they are going to be finally recognized for their sacrifices to our country," Wallace said.

For Williams, it is another battle conquered as he continues his journey of remembrance.

"If we can influence them and encourage them and have them respect our country and our flag and to love our country and serve each other – what better lesson could we possibly give," Williams said.

Read original press release

Related news story

Tampa groundbreaking ceremony

Memorial to laud Medal of Honor recipients


The VAMC in Martinsburg will be the site of the second Medal of Honor Wall of Memory in West Virginia.

"I want all VA medical centers in West Virginia to have Medal of Honor walls," Williams said. "In West Virginia, there is no central place where all the Medal of Honor recipients are listed. I thought maybe they could be listed at the VA medical centers."

In January 2013, Williams dedicated the first Wall of Memory at the Louis A. Johnson VAMC in Clarksburg.

There also are VA medical centers in Beckley and Huntington.

Sarah Tolstyka of the Martinsburg VAMC public affairs office learned of Williams' efforts to establish a Wall of Memory at the VA medical centers in West Virginia.

"He has a dream, a vision, so we started researching how we can help him realize his dream," she said.

The Medal of Honor Wall of Memory at the Martinsburg VAMC will be 60 feet long by four feet tall and installed in a corridor off the main lobby of the center, where some renovation work already had been planned, she said.

Clarksburg artist Jim Crim has designed the wall and the Martinsburg VAMC is working with Brews Custom Displays of Inwood on the exhibit. Brews is a disabled veteran-owned small business.

The display will feature the 44 Medal of Honor recipients from the four states that the Martinsburg VAMC serves. Honorees range from the Civil War to Vietnam.

The wall should be installed by April 2015.

Read original press release

Statewide Memorial to be Built at Valley Forge


New memorial will be the second in the nation and one of 50 (one is planned for each state) across the country.

Pennsylvania's new Gold Star memorial honoring the families of servicemen and women killed in the line of duty is now well on the way to becoming a reality. The memorial will be built on the campus of the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge National Historical Park.

This week the foundation and memorial organizers received a single donation from a King of Prussia pharmaceutical company that will cover half of the anitcipated $60,000 cost of building the memorial.

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Nonprofit honors Williams, carries out his mission


ONA — For his 90th birthday, World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Wil­liams is getting a 501©3 in his honor.

His grandson, Brent Casey of Barboursville, said the family has launched the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation in his grandfather’s honor. The foundation launches for Williams’ 90th birthday, which is Wednesday, Oct. 2, and it will carry out his vision of honoring Gold Star families.

“Gold Star Families are families that have lost one or more family members in combat,” Casey said. “It could be a mother, father, brother, sister or cousins. A lot of families have had service members that have paid the ultimate sacrifice and given their life in combat. … There’s a whole family that grieves.” Williams was honored at a 90th birthday celebration in Charleston on Tuesday, attended by a number of state dignitaries. At 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the foundation will dedicate the first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at Donel Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar, W.Va.

Funding and installing the monuments is about a $60,000 project, which is why the foundation was founded, Casey said.

“Woody’s vision is to honor and pay respect to those individuals through a monument,” he said. “We have five more locations now, in Georgia, Texas, Virginia and Louisiana.” To donate or for more information about the foundation, email

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Gold Star Families memorial Monument Dedicated


ONA — For his 90th birthday, World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Wil­liams is getting a 501©3 in his honor.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Department of Veterans Assistance Secretary Rick Thompson, and Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams on Wednesday dedicated the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery (DCKMSVC). The monument is a tribute to families who have lost a loved one in combat. It is the first of several Gold Star monuments slated to be installed at locations throughout the country.

“Our state is home to many men and women who have served with dedication and honor, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice. Today, we pay tribute to those left behind, the families who’ve lost a loved one in combat,“ Governor Tomblin said. “West Virginians have always answered the call for help-whether here at home or halfway around the world. As we dedicate this monument, I hope we will all take a moment to remember those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice and honor their families-the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. You are in our thoughts and prayers.“

“When a family sends their son, daughter, brother or sister to defend America’s freedoms, it isn’t just the service member who is at war-it’s the entire family,“ Secretary Thompson said. “The loved ones of those who pay the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country deserve our sincerest condolences, thanks and respect. I am proud to dedicate a monument in recognition of their courage and I am grateful to the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation for working diligently to establish this tribute at the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery.“

“West Virginia is known to have the most patriots per capita serving America, and lost more of her loved ones per capita in the Armed Forces than any other state,“ said Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams. “The dedication of the Gold Star Families Memorial to those who gave one or more of their loved ones is long overdue, and it says to all those who suffered that loss, ‘We have not forgotten. We remember.‘“

The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, established in 2012, pursues goals and objectives specific to Hershel “Woody” Williams’ vision. The Foundation’s projects currently include the promotion, creation, and implementation of Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments throughout the country.

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Cabell County Alternative Education School Presentation


Hershel "Woody" Williams spoke to dozens of school kids at the Cabell County Alternative Education School on Wednesday, Oct. 23. Woody speaks at the school a couple of times a year as well as many other local West Virginia schools about patiotism, courage, selflessness and service to country.

Governor Tomblin Appoints Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams to West Virginia Veterans' Council


CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the appointment of Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams to the West Virginia Veterans' Council. The appointment is effective immediately.

"I've had the honor and privilege of working with Woody throughout the years," said Gov. Tomblin. "An advocate for veterans, Woody is actively involved in both state and national veterans groups. More than a veteran, he embodies patriotism and honor. I'm pleased Woody has accepted my appointment to the Veterans' Council."

Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, West Virginia's last living Medal of Honor recipient, served in the United States Marine Corps. After being wounded at Iwo Jima on March 6, 1945, he received the Purple Heart, and on October 5, 1945 he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman.

When advised of his appointment Woody Williams said, "I am extremely proud to serve on one of the most important Councils along with other notable Veterans, involving the Veterans and their loved ones who sacrificed much to make sure Mountaineers are always free."

In accordance with Chapter 9A, Article 1, Section 2, as amended, The West Virginia Code provides that there shall be a Veterans Council, "consisting of nine members who must be citizens and residents of this state and who have served in and been honorably discharged or separated under honorable conditions from the Armed Forces of the United States and whose service was within a time of war as defined by the laws of the United States".

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Last Living Medal Of Honor Recipient From Iwo Jima Honored In Tulsa

The last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, Hershel "Woody" Williams, was guest of honor for the day-long festivities, presented by the Marine Corps League, Albert E. Schwab Detachment 857.

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