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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Congress honors World War II hero Iwo Jima with final salute

Congress on Thursday paid its final salute to Herschel W. “Woody” Williams, the 5-foot-6 “Force of Nature” and the last remaining Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Seventy years after his wartime heroism, Williams, who died last month at the age of 98, lay in honor in the US Capitol rotunda, a tribute reserved for the nation’s most distinguished private citizens. Only six others have received the honor: civil rights icon Rosa Parks, Rev. Billy Graham and four Capitol police officers.

Just 21, Williams was a Marine Corporal when US forces arrived on the strategic Japanese island in early 1945. Williams advanced from his unit and eliminated a series of Japanese machine gun positions. Facing small arms fire, he fought for four hours, repeatedly returning to prepare demolition charges and receive flamethrowers. President Harry Truman awarded him the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest honor, later that year.

But the new tribute to Williams was more than just his bravery in war service. It served as a mark of recognition for a generation of heroes, now dwindling in number, who fought in World War II. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said Williams wanted Thursday’s ceremony as a way to recognize each Medal of Honor recipient from that war.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during the ceremony, “With Woody’s passing, we have lost a selfless American and an important link to our nation’s greatest generation.”

Pelosi said Williams was far from the largest Marine, standing only 5-foot-6 and weighing 130 pounds, “yet he was a force of nature on the battlefield.” She said that she single-handedly destroyed seven enemy positions, and Truman said she acted with “determination and extraordinary valor”.

Lawmakers have applauded Williams throughout the week, marveling at his youth during his actions in Iwo Jima. He also commended his public service after his military career, which included establishing a foundation that works with local stakeholders to build memorials to fallen Gold Star families across the country.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. recalled meeting Williams at one such event in Owensboro, Ky.

“By that time, he had been giving back to his beloved country for 77 years,” McConnell said. “So, needless to say, Woody’s service leaves us a rich legacy.”

Williams was famous in his native West Virginia. In 2018, a Huntington, Va., medical center was renamed in his honor, and the Navy commissioned a mobile base marine vessel named after him in 2020.

Two state senators entered the Senate Wednesday to remember him. Democrat Joe Manchin called him “the greatest of the greatest generation”. Republican Shelley Moore Capito recalled her humility when Truman presented her with the Medal of Honor, Williams recalled asking herself why she had been chosen for the nation’s highest military honor, when The Marines next to them didn’t make it home.

“It shows you what kind of man Woody Williams was, always putting his country and his teammates first and never caring about who got the credit,” Capito said.

This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.`

World Nation News Desk
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