Last living Iwo Jima Medal of Honor recipient shares his story

Kelly Wiley | WRDW

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Marine Hershel "Woody" Williams has lived 92 years, but with clarity he says his single most life changing moment was 72 years ago today.

"It changed my life. I'm not the same guy," said Williams.

Feb 23rd, 1945 he was one of many guys fighting for America on the island of Iwo Jima. "We'd lost a tremendous amount of marines trying to advance to capture the island," said Williams.

"The pillboxes that the Japanese built were numerous."

"They had it so that every time we would attempt to advance we were losing marines because they were inside a concrete bunker."

Williams, a trained flamethrower, volunteered to destroy some of the bunkers to make a way for the marines to move forward.

"He gave me four marines and they were my protectors. These marines I didn't know them "

But they were all he had. With them by his side he eliminated seven of those bunkers.

"the enemy... the Japanese.. were no longer able to shoot us."

It turned out to be a bittersweet victory for Williams.

"Two of those marines that day gave their lives protecting me."

For his actions President Harry Truman put the Medal of Honor around his neck. An honor, but according to Williams, not his to take.

"I've said since Oct. 1945 ... it doesn't belong to me.It belongs to them two of them," said Williams. "So when I wear the Medal of Honor which I will tonight I wear it in their honor."

Doing his best to be a caretaker to the medal he got while his fallen marines took care of him.

Hershel "Woody" Williams spoke tonight at the Hounds Lake Country Club. 100 percent of proceeds go to the Matthew Dillon scholarship. Marine cpl. Matthew Dillon was from right here in Aiken and was fatally wounded in 2006 while serving in Iraq.

You can donate through this address: Marine Corps League Matt Dillon Scholarship Fund. P.O. Box 6046 Aiken, S.C. 29804-6046