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Last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow Williams dies at 98

Last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Woodrow Williams dies at 98
Hershel Woodrow Williams died at the age of 98 Wednesday. He was the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient. Photo courtesy of the Woody Williams Foundation

June 29 (UPI) -- Hershel Woodrow Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient died Wednesday, his foundation announced. He was 98 years old.

The Woody Williams Foundation announced Williams' death in a statement, adding that details about funeral and memorial services would be shared later.

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"Today at 3:15 a.m., Hershel Woodrow Williams, affectionately known by many as Woody, went home to be with the lord," the foundation said in a statement. "Woody peacefully joined his beloved wife Ruby while surrounded by his family."

Williams was presented the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman on Oct. 5, 1945, for displaying "valiant devotion to duty" in the Battle of Iwo Jima.

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A military vessel, the USS Hershel "Woody" Williams, was named in his honor in 2017 and embarked on its inaugural deployment on July 28, 2020.

Williams was born on a dairy farm in Quiet Dell, W.Va., in 1923 and served 20 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps reserves, his foundation said.

Prior to joining the Marine Corps, he delivered Western Union telegrams informing Gold Star families of deaths of their loved ones, saying the experience gave him a "greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country."

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After the war, Williams worked in the Department of Veterans Affairs for 33 years in addition to establishing the Woody Williams Foundation.

The foundation has established 103 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments throughout the United States, according to its website.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice offered for Williams to have a state funeral at the state Capitol and for him to lie in state at the Capitol building.

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"While the weight of this loss is profound, we all will be able to take solace in the fact that Woody's contributions to our nation inspired generations, cultivated similar bravery and saved lives," Justice said.

The National World War II Museum also mourned Williams in a statement, describing him as a "dear friend."

"The National WWII Museum joins his family, the Woody Williams Foundation, and the entire nation as we mourn his passing. As Williams and the last members of the WWII generation pass on, the museum is reminded of its critical responsibility to keep their stories alive for generations to come," the museum said.

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