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Williams defined what hero means

We toss around the word hero too frequently these days.

Hershel “Woody” Williams earned the title many times over.

West Virginia and the nation lost a warrior who fought first for his country — displaying unfathomable bravery at the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945 — and then for veterans and their families — setting up a foundation that “helps to raise public awareness about Gold Star families’ enduring sacrifice and the ultimate sacrifice made by their loved ones.”

That foundation led to Gold Star Families monuments being installed in Wheeling and Monroe County.

Williams, who died June 29 at the age of 98, was a fighter for his country, and an advocate for those who, like he was, were willing to give everything for it.

His foundation did more than set up Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments — it provided scholarships and advocated for educational benefits for all Gold Star Family members.

He never stopped inspiring others.

As the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, Williams was tireless to the end in ensuring our nation did not forget what it owes those who served. He used his status to get the job done, but never let his celebrity affect the way he treated others.

“Woody was the best of us,” said U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-Wheeling. “A hero at Iwo Jima, he was an icon to veterans across the nation and became their voice on matters before Congress and in state houses. Our nation mourns his passing.”

We know Williams’ work has inspired a new generation to carry out his fight for veterans and their families. They will not forget, and neither should we.

Williams was among the best his generation had to offer — willingly entering into battle to preserve our freedoms, and then coming home and living his life with valor and passion.

Wheeling Vet Center Director John Looney summed up Williams best: “He showed respect and appreciation to everyone he met, for he saw the spirit of God in each of us.”

From Chuck Hood, past commander of American Legion Post 1: “When they refer to it as ‘The Greatest Generation,’ they are correct. Without guys like him, who knows where we would be today?”

Godspeed, Woody.

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