A celebrated American hero has passed into eternity. Hershel "Woody" Williams was the last surviving Medal of Honor winner from World War II. He died Wednesday at the age of 98.
As a U.S. Marine corporal on Iwo Jima, Woody led his battalion's assault, taking out 7 enemy pillboxes over four hours. He faced enemy gunfire and direct attacks, going back for more flamethrowers as he ran low on fuel.
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That same day, Woody saw Old Glory waving over Mt. Suribachi – the iconic photo that made headlines around the world with fellow Marines planting the flag on Iwo Jima.
In 1945, President Truman awarded Woody the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that day. Not only did Woody kill several enemy soldiers, but two of his fellow Marines gave their own lives to save him that day.
“For me, receiving the Medal of Honor was actually the lifesaver because it forced me to talk about the experiences that I had, which was a therapy that I didn’t even know I was doing,” Williams said during a 2018 Boy Scouts recognition ceremony in Fairmont, according to the Times West Virginian.
But like many veterans of war, he struggled to adjust after returning home. He eventually found peace and purpose in Jesus Christ.
It happened on Easter Sunday in 1962 when Woody went to church with his wife and two girls. That's when he heard the pastor describe Christ's suffering on the cross.
Woody once told CBN when he heard "that Christ has sacrificed His life just for us, well, that hit home with these two Marines... Here are two individuals who didn't have to give their life, but they did, protecting me... And it really got me. It really got me. And for the first time I realized that there are sacrifices made for us."
Woody went to the altar and prayed to give his life to Christ that day. He served the Lord the rest of his life and taught Sunday school at his church for 44 years.
Woody Williams also founded a Louisville, Kentucky-based nonprofit foundation to raise money and establish more than 100 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments for relatives who lost service members across the United States, according to his website.
Williams was married to his wife Ruby for 62 years, and he had credited her love with helping carry him through the war. Ruby Williams died in 2007 at age 83. The couple had two daughters and five grandsons.
Services will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the state Culture Center in Charleston, WV. Visitations will be conducted Saturday and before Sunday’s service in the nearby Capitol rotunda.
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