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Woody Williams, last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 98

Herschel “Woody” Williams — a West Virginia native who was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II — died Wednesday at age 98.

Williams had been hospitalized and his family had asked Tuesday for prayers and privacy.

Williams, born in 1923 in Quiet Dell in Marion County as the youngest of 11 children, was a member of the United States Marine Corps. It was as a Marine corporal in the Battle of Iwo Jima that he earned the Medal of Honor, the United States military’s highest decoration for valor.

After the death of Charles Coolidge in April 2021, Williams became the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II.

Until recently, Williams has been active in establishing memorial monuments for Gold Star families who have lost loved ones who have died in service to their country including one here in Wheeling, at Heritage Port and one in Monroe County, Ohio.

Williams and his foundation are responsible for establishing 103 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 72 additional monuments underway in 50 states and 1 U.S. territory.

In 2021, Williams was hospitalized in Huntington after falling down a flight of stairs. He suffered several broken ribs and pelvic fractures in that fall. Those injuries did not require surgery but did call for significant rehabilitation.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Williams was “the embodiment of a true American hero.”

“Americans like Woody answered the call to serve our great nation and their sacrifices allow us to enjoy the freedoms we hold dear. Gayle and I are devastated by the loss of our dear friend who meant so much to so many across our great state and entire nation. We join all West Virginians in praying for Woody’s family, friends and loved ones during this difficult time,” Manchin said.

“Last Sunday, I was honored to visit with Woody one last time. We called VA Secretary Denis McDonough so he could thank Woody directly for his unparalleled service to our nation. In true Woody fashion, he wanted to discuss the importance of completing the Donel C. Kinnard Memorial State Veterans Cemetery in Dunbar – his most recent Veterans project – to ensure that the families of our fallen soldiers and Veterans have a safe place to lay their loved ones to rest, protected from the weather throughout the year. I am determined to carry on the legacy of my dear friend by getting the shelter built. … As the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Woody represented the last of the Greatest Generation. With the passing of Woody, their legacies and honor are laid to rest.”

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