Last World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, passes away at 98


Woody Williams, at age 97, wearing the Medal of Honor he received for his actions on Iwo Jima. (J.D. Simkins/Staff)
Americans are so busy being angry and struggling to fill our gas tanks that it is very likely most of America doesn’t even realize that we lost a true treasure this week.

Herschel “Woody” Williams was the last of the heroes to have received the Medal of Honor for his courage during the 36-day Battle of Iwo Jima.

With Woody’s passing this week, all of the  27 Marines and Navy servicemen who received Medals of Honor for their actions in that battle are now lost to history. 

Woody Williams met thousands of people every year. He touched lives without even realizing it.

He probably would not have remembered me.

But I will never forget him.

Long after he took his uniform off, he served his country and the people in it.

He led by example.

He led with grace.

He led with his heart, and his wit.

I remember how he double-timed it on our walk to a venue during an event he volunteered to attend. Snowball Express is an annual event that gathers the children of the fallen, along with a surviving parent or guardian, to a central location at Christmastime each year. 

First, it was in California, then Texas, and when Gary Sinise rolled Snowball Express into his foundation, it moved to Orlando.  

The year my four boys and I met Woody Williams, Snowball Express was in Texas.

We had been up since 3 am and traveling all day on the chartered flight that began at JFK and made four stops to pick up families en route to Texas. We were exhausted the moment we arrived but the action began immediately. 

We had not fully recovered the next day and were dragging on that walk, but there was Woody with a smile and I swear almost a skip in his step, his eyes laughing along with his smile as he led the way and talked about how much fun this was.

I am so glad my boys got to meet him.

I am so grateful he took the time to have a meaningful conversation with them.

I am so grateful for his service, and his presence here on earth.

And I am so certain he is now smiling even bigger, wrapped in the arms of the angels and seeing for the first time, the many, many lives he shined his light on.

I don’t think the phrase “Rest in Peace” can be applied to Woody. I bet he is already assembling the heroes who came before him, mustering up an army of angels, because he knows there is much work for them to help us with down here.

Barb Allen is a speaker, award-winning author, Gold Star Wife, and co-founder of the Great American Syndicate. Follow Barbara Allen on Instagram at @barballenspeaks

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