CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice issued the following statement today after learning of the death of Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient in the nation and native of Quiet Dell, West Virginia:
“I ask all West Virginians to join Cathy and I in praying for Woody, his family, friends, loved ones, and the entire military community across West Virginia and the United States of America. Pray that, while the weight of this loss is profound, we all will be able to take solace in the fact that Woody’s contributions to our nation inspired generations, cultivated similar bravery, and saved lives. Woody Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived, and we salute him for everything he gave to our state and our nation.
“I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my life and during my time as Governor to be able to spend a lot of time with Woody Williams over the years. Woody was a living legend and was the embodiment to the world of what it means to be a West Virginian.
“We are a state of service – with one of the highest rates of military enlistees per capita in the nation – because we are a state where people are willing to lay it all on the line to help their neighbor. We are selfless, courageous, and share a sense of duty to our state and our nation. Woody Williams was the shining example of these traits. America is the land of the free and the home of the brave because of the acts of valor displayed by Woody Williams in the spring of 1945. The tales of his bravery in Iwo Jima doubtlessly inspired generations of West Virginians to follow the call of duty in defense of our nation and our freedoms.
“But while Woody earned his Medal of Honor by fighting on behalf of America in one of the most important battles in the history of civilization as we know it, we also ought to remember that his service didn’t end when he returned home at the end of that conflict over three-quarters of a century ago. In the decades after, Woody used his platform to lead the charge in another battle: an effort to honor America’s Gold Star families – those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price in defense of our freedoms – through his Woody Williams Foundation. Woody shepherded the construction of 102 Gold Star memorials in all 50 states across America to forever honor everyday Americans who have sacrificed so much. While Woody may be gone from this Earth, his selfless contributions to our state and nation will live on forever.
“Woody was part of what was undoubtedly the greatest generation that ever lived. The bravery displayed by men like Woody Williams across America and throughout West Virginia will likely never be matched, and we have to make sure their sacrifices are never forgotten. There are still many World War II Veterans alive in West Virginia, but they won’t be with us forever. We should all take this as an opportunity to reflect on how much these Veterans mean to us. If you know a World War II Veteran, thank them, love them, talk to them, hear their stories while they’re still with us – it is so important. We need to keep their memories alive because, when the world was at its darkest hour, they were our shining light.”