Carl Vinson Hosts World War II Medal of Honor Recipient


Story Number: NNS160802-15Release Date: 8/2/2016 2:57:00 PM
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By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zackary Alan Landers, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- The crew of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) had the privilege of hosting Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, Aug. 1.

Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, is slated to be honored by the Navy with a ship bearing his name.

During an interview with Sailors from the Vinson media department, Williams said he feels the naming of a ship after him is an honor that ranks alongside being awarded the Medal of Honor.

"To know that there will be a United States ship with my name on it, sailing the seas with brave men and women who are willing to lay down their lives for freedom is incredible," said Williams.

Williams said he hopes Sailors serving aboard that ship remember the events of Feb. 23, 1945, the day his actions resulted in his selection for America's highest military honor.

"I hope the events of that day are commemorated in some way and remembered, because the only reason I am wearing this medal is because of two Marines who laid down their lives for me." said Williams. "They made the ultimate sacrifice."

Growing up as a self-described "country boy," Williams said he had never seen the ocean before joining the Marine Corps. As he traveled the Southern Pacific on troop ships during the war, Williams said he never imagined a ship would one day be named after him.

"For me, it was beyond comprehension," said Williams. "Never in my life did I think that I, as a farm boy from West Virginia, would have a Navy ship named after me," Williams said. "I can't believe it's actually a reality."

Reflecting on his early life, Williams said his family instilled in him the ideals of hard work and discipline; things that almost assured his success in the Marine Corps.

"I was raised to always do my best and to do as I'm told, so the Marine Corps wasn't a difficult adjustment in that respect," said Williams. "That's just the way my dad taught me and my family raised me."

According to Williams, perhaps the most influential words regarding his Medal of Honor came from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, a fellow Medal of Honor recipient, the day he was presented with the decoration.

"The commandant told all of us Marines who had received our medals that the medals don't belong to us," said Williams. "It's a privilege to wear this medal. He said that we must never do anything to tarnish the medal and the meaning it carries."
Williams also received the Purple Heart after being wounded March 6, 1945 on Iwo Jima.

After the war, he continued his service, retiring from the Marine Corps Reserve as a Chief Warrant Officer and working 33 years as an employee for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

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Medal of Honor recipient Hershel
160801-N-FT110-020 PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 1, 2016) Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams observes flight operations on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson is underway preparing for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class D'Andre L. Roden/Released)
August 4, 2016
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