Last Living Medal Of Honor Recipient From Iwo Jima Honored In Tulsa
TULSA, Oklahoma - Some of the United State's bravest were honored at Tulsa's Veteran's Park for a Medal of Honor Day ceremony on Saturday.
The last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, Hershel "Woody" Williams, was guest of honor for the day-long festivities, presented by the Marine Corps League, Albert E. Schwab Detachment 857.
The Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded to any member of the Armed Forces.
It represents a great act of valor, and the ceremony was in part to honor Williams.
It's known as one of the fiercest battles of World War II and was nearly 70 years ago. But for U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hershel "Woody" Williams, there are times when it feels like yesterday.
"The thoughts never completely go away," Williams said. "There's always something that will remind you of something and it will bring back a flash memory."
Williams was 19 when he enlisted with the Marines.
"Others were saying that we could very well lose our freedom, so I wanted to protect America," he said.
And protect America, he did.
Williams fought against Japanese forces on Volcano Island.
Covered by only four riflemen, he forged ahead alone, fighting for four straight hours under heavy fire to take out enemy machine gunners with his flamethrower.
"You have miracles in your life, many of them, and that was one of the miracles in my life," he said. "I was just doing a job I'd been trained to do and I survived doing that job."
Now he wears a precious medal that rewards the risk he took going above and beyond the call of duty.
President Harry S. Truman placed it around Williams' neck on October 5, 1945.
"I wasn't the only one he said it to, but he said to me, ‘I would rather have that medal than to be president.' And I was so frightened, I couldn't make any response," Williams said.
Williams said he's humbled by the honor, but really he just considers himself the keeper of the medal.
Because in his mind, it will always belong to other Marines who died that day.
"Two of those Marines gave their lives protecting mine, so when I wear, I don't wear it for what I did, I wear it in their honor."
Williams, who calls West Virginia home, is 89-years-young.
He said he travels across the country each year to be a part of Medal of Honor ceremonies.
A wreath-laying ceremony took place at Floral Haven in Broken Arrow. Exhibits opened at Veterans Park in Tulsa, and there was a presentation at 1 p.m. at Veteran's Park.
General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC, Retired, was keynote speaker at an evening reception for World War II Veterans at the VFW Post 15 in Tulsa.