The West Virginia State Memorial Services for Hershel “Woody” Williams was held on July 3, 2022 at the State Culture Center Theater. The memorial and honoring services began the day before with a procession from the Beard Mortuary in Huntington to the State Capitol. Woody was on public viewing at the State Capitol Rotunda July 2-3, where family, friends and people from across the country came to pay their respects.
Marine Corps sergeant major Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black was the master of ceremonies and greeted everyone to a packed theater. The Sgt. Maj. addressed Woody’s selfless character and asked those present to celebrate his life.
“Let’s celebrate one of the few of one of the greatest generations. Let’s celebrate all the things we know about Woody. Let’s celebrate everyone he’s influenced. Let’s celebrate his family, his friends, let’s celebrate Woody,” said Sgt. Maj. Schwarz.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, also attended the ceremony and spoke about Woody’s lifelong passion for serving others. General Berger paid tribute to Woody’s legacy, noting that it will live on forever.
“Many people will mourn his death. And we know his legacy as a Marine, as Woody, that will continue. His courage, his selflessness, his humility, all embodied the best virtues of this nation. I believe his enduring contributions, which perpetuate our legacy, left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Marine Corps. His legacy is yours and mine,” General Berger said.
West Virginia State Senator Joe Manchin opened up about his relationship with Woody and how impressed he was with Woody’s selfless character. The Senator made a special announcement that Woody Williams will be laid out in the US Capitol Rotunda in Washington, DC for the coming weeks.
The memorial services included an honored coffin march where Marines from Marine Barracks Washington on the 8th and I escorted the coffin out of the Capitol building and placed Woody in a hearse that carried it to the steps of the Capitol Culture Center. Minutes after the hearse reached the Culture Center Theater, a military volunteer flyover flew directly over the hearse and the crowd gathered outside.
A wreath-laying ceremony was held immediately after the memorial service at the Gold Star Families memorial on the Capitol grounds. Marines from Marine Barracks Washington paid tribute to Woody with a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps. Gen. Berger presented the national flag to Woody’s daughter, Tracie Ross, and Sgt. Maj. Dusty Jones, Command Senior Enlisted Leader of the West Virginia National Guard, laid a wreath at the base of the Gold Star Family Memorial Monument.
The Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is just one of over 100 memorials erected in all 50 states and US territories. All of this was made possible by the Woody Williams Foundation and Woody’s desire and passion to honor and recognize Gold Star Families.
Marine Corps Medal of Honor recipients Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston and retired Corporal William Kyle Carpenter fired artillery cannons to end the weekend of memorial service for Woody.
Retired Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living recipient of the World War II Medal of Honor, died in the early morning of June 29, 2022. Woody was surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia.
Born October 2, 1923 in Quiet Dell, WV, Woody enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 26, 1943 and rose to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 before retiring in 1969 after 17 years of service. During World War II, Woody served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal and Guam before ending up in Iwo Jima where his actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
Woody embodied the fighting spirit of all Marines—a battle-hardened leader whose lifelong commitment to service members and Gold Star families began with his heroic actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima. His legacy as a warrior and advocate for veterans will live on among all Marines and he will be greatly missed.
The live feed recording of the memorial service can be found here: https://youtu.be/yLVvbDA9VJM
See Williams’ quote on the Medal of Honor here: https://www.usmcu.edu/Research/Marine-Corps-History-Division/Information-for-Units/Medal-of-Honor-Recipients-By-Unit/Cpl – Hershel-Woodrow-Williams