The West Virginia State Memorial services for Hershel ‘Woody” Williams took place at the State Culture Center Theater, July 3, 2022. Memorial and honors services started the day prior with a procession from the Beard Mortuary in Huntington to the State Capitol. Woody lay in state at the State Capitol Rotunda for public viewing July 2 - 3, where family, friends, and people from all over the country came to pay their respects.
The Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black, was the Master of Ceremonies and welcomed everyone to a packed theater. The Sgt. Maj. spoke to Woody’s selfless character and asked those in attendance to celebrate his life.
“Let’s celebrate one of the few from one of the greatest generations. Let’s celebrate all the things we know about Woody. Let’s celebrate all of those he’s impacted. Let’s celebrate his family, his friends, let us celebrate Woody”, said Sgt. Maj. Black.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David H. Berger, also participated in the ceremony, providing remarks about Woody’s life’s passion for serving others. Gen. Berger honored Woody’s legacy and remarked that it will live on forever.
“A lot of people are going to mourn his passing. And we know his legacy, as a Marine, as Woody, that’s going to continue. His bravery, his selflessness, his humility, all of that exemplified the best virtues of this nation. His enduring contributions, enduring to our heritage, I think they have left an indelible mark on the legacy of our Marine Corps. His legacy is yours and mine,” said Gen. Berger.
West Virginia State Senator Joe Manchin delivered remarks about his relationship with Woody, and how impacted he was by Woody’s selfless character. The Senator made a special announcement that Woody Williams will lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Washington, D.C. in the coming weeks.
The memorial services included an honored casket march, with Marines from Marine Barracks Washington at 8th & I escorting the casket outside of the Capitol building and placing Woody into a hearse that carried him to the steps of the Capitol Culture Center. Minutes after the hearse reached the Culture Center Theater, an honorary military flyover went directly above the hearse and the crowd gathered around outside.
A Wreath Laying Ceremony immediately followed the memorial service at the Gold Star Families memorial on the Capitol grounds. Marines from Marine Barracks Washington paid tribute and full honors to Woody with a 21-Gun salute and the playing of “Taps”. Gen. Berger presented the National Ensign 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 Monuments established across all 50 states and U.S. territories. All were made possible by the Woody Williams Foundation and Woody’s desire and passion to honor and recognize Gold Star Families.
Medal of Honor recipients Marine Corps retired Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston and retired Corporal William Kyle Carpenter fired artillery cannons to close out the weekend of memorial honors to Woody.
Marine Corps retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, the last living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, passed away in the early morning of June 29, 2022. Woody was surrounded by his family at the VA Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia.
Born on October 2, 1923, in Quiet Dell, WV, Woody enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve on May 26, 1943, and advanced to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 4 before his retirement in 1969 after 17 years of service. During WWII, Woody served in New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, and Guam before landing in Iwo Jima where his actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
Woody exemplified the warfighting spirit of all Marines—a combat-proven leader whose lifelong dedication to all service members and Gold Star families began with his heroic actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima. His legacy as a warrior and an advocate for veterans will live on among all Marines, and he will be deeply missed.