Guardian of the Republic: Hershel “Woody” Williams – Honoring America’s Gold Star families

At the age of 90 you’d think retired Marine Chief Warrant Officer-4, Woody Williams would be kicking back on the front porch with some sweet tea or out fishing enjoying retirement.  Instead, he’s on a mission, moving faster than most drill instructors at Parris Island, working on his foundation’s project to honor Gold Star families.

Woody, who was also awarded the Purple Heart, is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Because he has literally devoted his life to the service of his country and his fellow veterans, it’s no surprise he was chosen as Guardian of the Republic in the military category.

After leaving the Marine Corps in 1969, Woody went to work for the VA helping fellow veterans and also served as Chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for 35 years. He currently travels the country talking to school children about citizenship and continues to represent the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and his own foundation.

Woody grew up on a dairy farm and drove a taxi as a young man in his home state of West Virginia.  As was the practice during those times, one of Woody’s tasks as a taxi driver was delivering telegrams to the families of fallen soldiers.  Making those deliveries, and witnessing the suffering of the families as they received the news, was one of the reasons, some 70 years later, that Woody Williams felt led to encourage national recognition of those families.

Woody established the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation in 2012 based on his own principals for life: embracing the indomitable courage demonstrated by the recipients of America’s highest military honor for valor as an ideal that should endure in all ways of life; supporting sacrifice and service above self; and committing to support and defend the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  The Foundation is involved in education and character building in young Americans, recognizing citizen heroes, creating wall memorials to honor Medal of Honor recipients, and creating Gold Star monuments to honor the families who sacrificed so much for our country.

Woody’s goal is to place a Gold Star monument in every veteran’s cemetery in the United States.  The first Gold Star Families Memorial Monument was unveiled in 2013 in Dunbar, West Virginia.  Two more have since been completed and the foundation is currently working in nine cities to help city residents design and fund their own memorials to honor their Gold Star families.   You can learn more about the Medal of Honor Foundation or help honor the Gold Star families at the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation.

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10 Comments on "Guardian of the Republic: Hershel “Woody” Williams – Honoring America’s Gold Star families"

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About ten years ago, I had the honor of meeting, and spending the day with, Mr. Williams during the MOH Society conference in Boston. He is a kind, intelligent and humble man who embodies the very best of America. Had I not known of his background, I would have never guessed that I was in the presence of a true hero.

I am happy to see he is still alive, well and dedicated to the service of our Country. We all owe him a great debt both for his service and his example.

Tyrone Nunnely

Semper Fi Chief and May God Bless You Forever!


Marine Williams, thank you for being a Guardian of the Republic!
One word to describe men such as yourself: “greatness”.

Bryan Urquidez

Semper Fi Chief

Joanne Christie

He doesn’t look a day over 70. God Bless Sir.


An Honorable American Hero. God Bless You Mr. Williams.

David K Winnett Jr

I had the great honor of buying lunch for Woody and his grandson Brent Casey a couple of years ago. Truly one of the highlights of my life. For a retired Marine like myself to be in the company of a Marine who was a key participant in the battle for Iwo Jima was simply breathtaking. I will forever cherish the challenge coin he placed in my hand when we first met.

Semper Fi Woody!

David K. Winnett, Jr.

Robert L. Rice

“A true AMERICAN hero”

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Demolition Sergeant serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-First Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Island, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines and black, volcanic sands, Corporal Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machine-gun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by four riflemen, he… Read more »
Bruce Rose

I grew up with his grandsons and knowing woody he is a great guy even out side of everything the public sees. great all around guy to know