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'Woody' Williams, last WWII Medal of Honor recipient, lies in honor at U.S. Capitol

Family members stand in a circle around the flag-draped casket of Herschel "Woody" Williams in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda as he lies in honor on July 14. Pool Photo by Chip Somodevilla/UPI | License Photo

July 14 (UPI) -- Hershel "Woody" Williams, the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient, is lying in honor Thursday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

"Woody made giving back to his fellow veterans, and to Gold Star families, a lifelong mission. Our nation was richly blessed by the life of this patriot," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a Facebook post.

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In her weekly live-stream video press conference House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the West Virginia native "our link to the Greatest Generation."

"He fought and fought and fought and took out like six enemy installations," she said, adding that he earned the Medal of Honor when he "single-handedly destroyed enemy positions."

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Members of the Senate, House and executive branch of government laid wreaths around the casket.

Senators McConnell, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Capito, R-W.Va., were among those who paid their respects along with Pelosi, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller of West Virginia.

Manchin delivered remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday night commemorating Williams and celebrating his legacy.

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"You're the legacy he was most proud of, all of you," Manchin said to the Williams family during the speech.

"It has been 77 years since Woody quieted those enemy machine guns on the sands of Iwo Jima, and while he is now sadly gone, the ideals that he lived by are not: love of his family, his friends and his faith; and service to country above self," Manchin said.

Manchin said lying in honor at the U.S. Capitol was one of Woody's last wishes.

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"Not for himself, but to represent all Medal of Honor recipients of World War II," Manchin said.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., also spoke from the Senate floor to commemorate WIlliams' life Wednesday night.

She described the day that Woody Williams took the actions in battle that earned the Medal of Honor.

"That day, under hours of constant fire, Woody, who was a member of the 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division, alone stormed multiple enemy pillboxes, with limited cover, neutralizing one after another, saving countless American lives behind him," Capito said.

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"He went on to fight throughout the entire five-week campaign on Iwo Jima until our forces finally took the Japanese stronghold, marking a key turning point for the Allied cause," she said.

Williams died June 29 at 98.

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