Charleston, WV - Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Whip Ryan Weld, R-Brooke, today welcomed Hershel “Woody” Williams, West Virginia native and Medal of Honor recipient, to the West Virginia Senate Chamber for a ceremony celebrating the adoption of Senate Concurrent Resolution 6, which supports the construction of a Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. Senators Ferns and Weld introduced the resolution.
The Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation has 30 Gold Star Families Memorial monuments dedicated across the United States, and another 41 currently in progress. The first of these memorials was constructed at the Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Cemetery in Institute. With the adoption of the resolution, the Legislature authorized the construction of another memorial to be placed on Capitol grounds.
“Unlike some of the other statues and monuments that encircle this building, the Gold Star Family Memorial that we seek to build recognizes the fallen by honoring those they left behind – their families: The mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of those whose blood was spilled on distant battlefields.” Senator Ferns said. “For many years, these families were overlooked by Hollywood, popular fiction, and a nation focused on its new responsibilities as a world leader. That is, until one of our native sons, who has a personal connection to Gold Star families, launched a foundation to make honoring these Americans his life’s work.”
In addition to the resolution for the memorial, Senators Ferns and Weld also introduced a bill currently before the Senate Finance Committee that would allow a person to donate to state Veterans Affairs agencies when they renewed their driver’s license. The idea also came from Williams, who noted other states give residents this option.
Senator Weld, who also serves as Chairman of the Senate Military Committee and is an active member of the U.S Air Force Reserves, said the bill would go a long way toward funding a new veterans hospital in West Virginia.
“For a person like me, who has worn and continues to wear the uniform as a reservist, it’s a great honor to be here today with someone who served with such distinction, and who served both our nation and our state so admirably,” Senator Weld said of Williams.
Williams told the Senators and Delegates that we must remember 448 West Virginia heroes who sacrificed their life for America, for our freedom, and for us.
“For some of those families, there was no closure, because their loved one never got to come home,” Williams said. “Yet, we as a country, and as a people, and as a society, have never recognized their loss – the loss of the member of their family – and it’s long past time that we who have had the privilege of living our lives in a free society honor them in a way that their loved ones will not be forgotten.”
Williams is not only the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from Iwo Jima; he is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the entire Pacific Theater, and one of only four surviving Medal of Honor recipients from all of World War II.