Veteran deserves honor

West Virginia is a state born from military conflict, with a unique heritage of military service to our nation. West Virginians have always served our great country valiantly and Hershel “Woody” Williams is among West Virginia and our great nations’ most valiant.

There has been a discussion about renaming the Huntington VA Medical Center to the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center.

Currently, a rule prevents Veteran Affairs buildings from being named after living people and while I understand this, I have, on behalf of all West Virginians written the Veterans Affairs Committee to request the suspension of that rule.

Woody Williams is the embodiment of the best of his generation, and, by recognizing him for his service while he is still alive, we can lift up a role model to inspire all West Virginians and Americans.

I believe that renaming this VA facility in Huntington after Woody Williams, keeps with the traditions and policies of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 2004, President George W. Bush signed legislation allowing the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center to be named for Pharmacist Mate 2nd Class George E Wahlen (August 8, 1924-June 5, 2009).

At the time of the dedication, George was Utah’s last living Medal of Honor recipient, and I would like to extend the same honor to Woody Williams, West Virginia’s resident hero and last living Medal of Honor Recipient.

Wahlen and Woody Williams fought alongside one another at the Battle of Iwo Jima and both received the Medal of Honor for their actions.

Woody Williams grew up on a dairy farm in Fairmont, West Virginia and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, West Virginia on May 26, 1943.

Williams landed in Iwo Jima on February 21, 1945. Two days later on February 23rd, American tanks were trying to open a lane for the infantry when they encountered a network of reinforced Japanese concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands.

Corporal Williams went forward with his 70-pound flamethrower in an attempt to reduce the devastating machine gun fire from the fortified enemy positions.

On yet another occasion, he was charged by multiple enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with fixed bayonets. I don’t know what they were thinking but Williams neutralized every one of them by bursts of flame from his weapon.

These actions occurred on the same day as the raising of the U.S. flag on the island’s Mount Suribachi.

Woody fought through the remainder of the five-week-long battle and was wounded on March 6, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.

As a result of Woody Williams’ courageous service in the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division in the Battle of Iwo Jima, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman.

Today, at 93 years old, he is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from that battle.

What sets Woody Williams apart from so many others who have also served honorably is that his brave service on the battlefield was accompanied by his compassionate assistance to service members and their families.

After serving 20 years in the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserves, Woody Williams spent 33 years as a Veterans Service Representative in the Department of Veterans Affairs and now serves on the Governor’s Military Advisory Board in West Virginia.

I can think of no one else who deserves this honor more than Woody Williams.

He is an unparalleled advocate for veterans from all eras and a real example of what it means to be not only a West Virginian but an American.

Mooney is a U.S. congressman representing West Virginia’s second district.

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