Interview with Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams

Interview with Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams


Hello everyone, thank you for joining us today,
I’m Lisa Schmucki. I’m the founder of edWeb
and it’s my honor to be able to introduce today’s presentation, which is going to be an interview
presented by the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation with Hershel Williams
as a recipient of the Medal of Honor. We’re delighted that we can bring this interviews to teachers and students
all around the country and the world so you hear about the experiences
that lead to awarding, recipient Hershel Williams the Medal of Honor. Even more importantly the reflections on life
going back and going forward that really can resonate with the challenges
that students face in their own lives, the call upon them for courage and sacrifice. We’re really, really delighted
to have this presentation today. The interview is going to be conducted
by Cathy Metcalf, who’s the Vice President of Education
with the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. Before we begin, we just want to take a poll
and learn a little bit more about our audience and who’s joining us today because I know that classrooms are coming
from all around the country with their students. If the team would pull up
the poll [unintelligible 00:01:16]. You can click on the circle there
next to the level of education that you maybe joining from
if you’re a teacher attending with your class. We’ll just give this a few minutes
to see what the results are. We know we have people
from all levels of education. Looks like it’s a little bit more high school
and some other too. If you selected other,
please post in the chat and tell us– homeschooling, that’s wonderful
and hello from everywhere in the world where you’re from. California, Virginia, Tennessee, New York. This is a great way for us all to be together and also be joined by a classroom as well
for this presentation. I’m going to close the poll. Cathy I’m going to turn the presentation over to you
and Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Williams and sit back and listen, thank you. – Thank you, Lisa. Hello teachers and students and other viewers.
It’s a privilege to be here today. I’m honored to be here with Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams
who is a veteran from World War II, who has a Medal of Honor.
I wasn’t paying attention, you’re not wearing your Medal of Honor. – I have it in my pocket.
[chuckles] – Well we’ve loved to see it. [chuckles] – All right. – I should have done that, but we’re coming to you today
on a very, very special day from a very special place. We are here at the National World War II Museum
in New Orleans Louisiana. This museum started out as the National D-Day Museum
and is now recognized nation and worldwide as one of the premier institutions for keeping World War II history
in the entire world. Woody was part of that, a very long time ago
and in fact today he’s celebrated his 95th birthday. Great opportunity for us to recognize you on your birthday
and just to celebrate that you’re still hanging around with us. – Well, thank you. – Good job and doing it well, too. This is goal right here,
you’re all looking at a goal and I also want to recognize students at Kaneland High School
in the greater Chicago areas. Students, you want to say hello. They have been kind enough to let us see their faces today
, it’s always more fun. We appreciate all you who are logged on
and we’re watching the chats that you type in, but we can’t see all your faces. Kaneland is presenting a face for you today
so thank you everybody. Teachers and students
this webinar is mainly for you, that’s what we’re here for, to give you an opportunity
to chat with students Woody and for students to ask questions. We like to use this webinars to build
the primary resource material that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. We’re going to go ahead and get started. I’m going to ask you a few questions
so we can get acquainted and then we’ll take student questions
and teacher questions. Just so you know, if there are others of you who write in,
we always try to take student and teacher questions first. Okay, so to get started,
happy 95th birthday. You grew up a very distant time
from time that our children today are growing up. Both are young children, we have some elementary students
[inaudible 00:04:54] a group from Kentucky
You grew up a very distant time
from time that our children today are growing up. Both are young children, we have some elementary students
[inaudible 00:04:54] a group from Kentucky and I think [unintelligible 00:04:57]
in California. They’re definitely in a different time
and even our high school students. Can you tell us a little bit what it was like growing up when
you were a young man and a student in school? – Sure, yes. Well first of all let me say my theme for today
is ‘great to be alive at 95’, that’s my theme for today. This is the Medal of Honor. Let me explain the fact that there are three of these,
each branch of the service, major branches of the service
have a Medal of Honor. We have one for the Navy, Marine Corp
and Coast Guard and that’s this medal. Then there is a medal for the Army which is different
and then a larger medal for the Air force. They had to make one bigger, because of big airplanes.
[laughs] I grew up in the country.
My life was a little different of course than those who were growing up in the City. Not a great deal
because even in the cities in my day we had no grocery stores or
markets that we could go to, to get stuff like butter and milk
and stuff like that because we had no air-conditioning. It was one of those things that had to be done
almost daily. I grew up on a dairy farm
and we were the suppliers of milk and butter and eggs and vegetables
to the people in town. We would every morning, seven days a week,
we would take milk and produce to the families in the cities. We would deliver it to their homes and they would order whatever they needed
for whatever occasion they were having. At Christmas time or holiday time they would order a lot more stuff than they would
just naturally for everyday use, because they’re having relatives come in
and they’re going to have a big gathering of family, so they needed a whole lot more stuff. The holidays were really very busy for us, but everyday we had to do that,
we had to deliver their milk. The milk in those days didn’t come in a carton,
like it does today. It came in a milk bottle, a glass milk bottle. Once the bottle was empty,
the would clean the bottle then we would pick it up, bring it home
and we’d run it through a boiling process so that it would be clean and then refill it,
and deliver it the next day back to them again. The bottle got used many, many times over. – Now, how old were you when you started working?
You say we, so I presume it was family business. How old were you when you started working
the family business with this? – Right, okay.
When my father started the farm, I was three years old
but when I reached my six year of age, then I became actually
part of the farm operation. Each one of us had a duty assigned to us
as to what we were to help out on the farm. As you got older, you assumed more duties. The milk that we used, and it actually came from cows
like it does today but today it’s extracted machine wise. In our day we couldn’t do that because
we didn’t have the machines to do it, we did it by hand. Each person in the family,
and there were five of us in the family, four boys and a girl. Each one of us had an assignment
of how many cows we were responsible for. The older you got, the more cows you got
that you had to milk everyday, twice a day, to supply the people in town. – Now when you started going to school, did you have to get up
and do this before you went to school? – Absolutely. – Then did you have to do it again
when you got home from school? – Absolutely, yes. – Okay, and the cows didn’t take Saturday and Sunday off,
did they? – No, they didn’t. – Okay, so at what point were you in your life
when World War II broke out and what prompted you to go join the service? – At my 16th birthday the government had started a program
called Civilian Conservation Corps. Really it was to offer the youth of America
those who wanted to volunteer to join a youth program
and learn some kind of a trade. Something that they could use and do
once they got out of the CCC’s we called it. My brother next to me he went first. He enlisted into it and you had a one-year contract.
You signed it for a year. If you didn’t want to stay after a year
then you can come home. They were paying money
to those students or workers in the CCC. When I started it was $21 a month. That was a lot of money to us
because we didn’t have any money. – That was an effort to help
break us out of the Great Depression because so many people had no jobs at all. The farms were really keeping us going
at that point? – True. When I went in
I thought I would stay right in my home state of West Virginia. That I wouldn’t go anywhere else
but I ended up in the state of Montana. I was in Montana when Pearl Harbor was bombed. At the time they were going to discontinue
the Civilian Conservation Corps because they needed these same youth
that were in that unit to go into the military so we could win the war. I instead of going straight in which I could have gone into the army,
I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to be a Marine.
I came home and joined the Marine Corps. – Did you get in right away? – No. [laughs] I was only 17,
I hadn’t reached my 18th birthday yet. – Didn’t you have to be 21 at the time to join?
They already had lowered the age. – 18. If you were under 18
you had to have a parent consent. My father was deceased and my mother said no.
When mom said no, you didn’t argue, period. When I was 18 and reached by 18th birthday,
one month after that I wanted to go to war. I didn’t want to go to war to fight a war.
I wanted to go to war to protect my country and my freedom. I didn’t realize at that age and with no more knowledge
that we had in the way of worldly things. I didn’t know that I would have to go
someplace else another country or another area and fight in a war.
I didn’t know that. My concept at the time of going in was all of us
not just me. All the rest of us who were going in,
would stay right here in the United States so that we could protect our country and our freedom.
Nobody could take that away from us. Of course when I got the Marine Corps I learned
that the war is over there and not thank goodness not here. – Thank goodness here
but it meant you were going somewhere? – That’s right. – I think at this point we probably are in a spot
where we can take some questions from Kaneland because I know that they had some questions
regarding things that were going on during World War II. If I could have a student from Kaneland
offer a question? – My question is after seeing the outcome
that previous men with flamethrowers faced. What gave you the courage to pick one up
and charge into enemy lines? – Before you answer this I’ll repeat the question
but I missed in background here. I’m hoping all our viewers that you have had a chance
to preview Woody’s living history. It’s on www.themedalofhonor.com. Also if you google Hershel Williams
you will find that there are a lot of different interviews that you have conducted previously
with the VFW and the VA and such. There are many stories of him
relating what happened in Iwo Jima and the action for which he was awarded the medal. This question refers to that the weapon
that you carried was a flamethrower. She was asking and correct me please
if I got this wrong. Would you repeat your question so I can? – I said after seeing the outcome that previous men
with flamethrowers faced. What gave you the courage to pick one up
and charge into enemy lines? – This young lady’s done her home work
and knows that you had lost the six other people in your unit
who carried the weapon known as the flamethrower. What gave you the courage
to still pick one up and go on? – I’m not really sure that it is courage. I know that that’s essential to whatever you do
when you’re in a situation like that. That was the thing that I was trained for. Marine Corps had spent many, many hours
training me to do a particular task. That was my job. I gave it no thought whatsoever as to what I’m getting into
or what may or may not happen. That’s what I was trained to do.
I had taken on that responsibility, that obligation. It was just go do it.
Like anybody would go do their job whatever it maybe
and the circumstances be gone. I gave it no thought. It was just part of the job. – Part of the job. Thank you. I hear that and if we could have another question from Kaneland
as well we’ll follow up. I hear that many times from Medal of Honor recipients
that in regards to the action that resulted in the Medal of Honor
that you felt you were just doing your job. Doing what needed to be done in the circumstances.
Thank you. Another question please? – How has the combination of your work with the VA and your war experience shaped your views
on the way America treats our veterans? – You’re asking about his work with the VA
and how [inaudible 00:16:55] thoughts about veterans? I think we’re going back a little ways
or maybe jumping ahead in our discussion. We may circle back to your question. Again this class has done their homework
and I guess they know that you worked as a Veteran’s service officer. You did that but how long ago has it been
since you did that?
Again this class has done their homework
and I guess they know that you worked as a Veteran’s service officer. You did that but how long ago has it been
since you did that? When did you retire from that? – I retired in 1959.
I’ve retired long time ago but very well remember. Getting the football at home by somebody I’d never heard tell off
to work for the Veterans Administration we called it VA. They said if you would like to have a job and you would come to our place
which was 230 miles away. I didn’t have a car
and I’d just married. If you would like to come to our place we will give you a job
and train you to be a veteran’s counselor. I said I don’t think I want to do that. They said well, the pay is pretty good. It pays $2,980 a year. I want that to soak in, $2,980 a year. I said I’m coming
because I had never seen that much money and not never certainly
had hope of ever receiving that money from working. – That was when you left the Marine Corps
and went to work for the VA. – No. I was already out [crosstalk]
I was just [unintelligible 00:18:43]. – Then to follow up on that question
you spent years working with veterans and counselling them about their opportunities. What do you think about the way
we’re dealing with veterans now? – It’s amazing. It really is a wonderful thing
that we’re doing today. When I came home and this was true in most states. Most states only had one VA.
We called it VA or Veterans Administration facility in the state. It generally was a hospital so that veterans who needed medical care
would have someplace to go. As I said it was 230 miles from my home
to where that VA medical hospital was. Of course I’d never heard tello. I didn’t even know it existed
and neither did any of the other veterans in our area. Today we have just in my state alone
of West Virginia we have four huge VA medical centers
to take care of veterans. Then a whole bunch of satellite places out
where they can go and received medical care
without having to go to a hospital. The amount of service has been furnished today compared to what we had is monumental. Absolutely a great, great thing. – We’re definitely moving in the right direction
and I’m going to put a feather in your cap for you. One of those being [inaudible 00:20:22] Virginia
was just recently dedicated and named after you. – Yes, it was. – Good recognition of ongoing service to veterans. That’s one of the things that I’ve seen
with most Medal of Honor recipients as well is it not only did you serve
at great sacrifice and a gentle sacrifice during your consulate
but you continue to serve afterwards. Not just the country as a whole but specifically veterans.
Thank you for that question. Do we have any more questions from Kaneland
say specifically about going back to World War two for a bit before we [inaudible 00:20:55] in life again? Here comes a young man. Thank you, sir. – While you were on the ship as a reserve
did you want to go ashore onto Iwo Jima? – Yes I guess I did. Here again,
that was what we were there for. We were there to win the war.
The only way you could win the war is to overpower the other people. We looked like or looked at it as a responsibility and whatever it takes to save our freedom
and save our country we’re going to do that because those are the most precious things
that we have other than life itself. We had no question about
whether or not we would go in to combat. That’s what we were trained for,
that was the obligation we accepted and we were always ready. – Thank you. Good question and good answer. I would ask you to pull up another question related to World War II
and while somebody else is getting ready for that I want to ask, did you have any idea
in relation to this young man’s question, did you have any idea when you were waiting on that ship
to find out if you’re going on what would be in store for you when you landed? – I had a little bit of an idea.
Every island that we took was a little bit different. They weren’t all the sam
e didn’t involve the same pattern each time. I don’t think we had any doubt
that we wouldn’t be successful that we do what we were supposed to do.
We had just the year before or a few months before actually, taken the island of Guam back from the enemy and that was the step in the direction
of finally getting this thing over. There was no question. – A good step in a much, much larger circumstance. Notice, student, that he said in getting this thing over.
That goes to the entire war in the Pacific keeping in mind, of course, that at the same time
there was more of the war going on in Europe. I want to draw attention for just a minute to this map
that [inaudible 00:23:30] here on the wall. This is a really special map.
As you’ll see Pacific in the far east and right here this dot out here
completely surrounded by ocean is Iwo Jima. Guam is down here. You can see
where our troops were operating out here in the Pacific. I want to draw attention to these dots
because for those of you who are animal lovers and dog owners these dots represent the first canine platoons that our armed services used.
The green dots are army dog platoons and the red dots are marine corps dog platoons. That is a map from World War II that features that. This is where were talking about right now
it says Volcano Island that’s where Iwo Jima was out there
in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Do we have another question related to the war
or to Woody’s action from Kaneland? Good morning. – Hi, how did it feel when you saw the flag being raised? – How did it feel when you saw the flag being raised? Now the question is
did you actually see the flag being raised? – No, I really didn’t see the flag go up. My memory tells me that the flag was already up but the Marines around me
and we’re still in battle they’re still dropping mortars on us
and artillery and we’re in battle. The Marines around me began yelling
and firing their weapons into the air. – Yikes, that’s dangerous. – Well, it was but it was also a celebration because
Old Glory was flying up on Mount Suribachi which meant we were winning
because now our flag is flying over this isle. It was really Old Glory
that brought Iwo Jima to the forefront because every island that we took we always put up a flag
once we were in the position to do so because we were going to occupy that island and we were going to be in control of it
so Old Glory is going to be flying everyday. On Iwo, the thing that made it so iconic was this is the first actual enemy territory
that we were capturing. All the other islands that we had taken in the Pacific
and that was quite a number of them belong to some other country. The Japanese had taken them and occupied them
but they didn’t own the island they were just occupants. Iwo was their island
it was part of their country [inaudible 00:26:38] Old Glory we went up on Suribachi on that island
that meant to us and I think all of America, “Hey, we’re winning this thing” We are going to achieve our goal
of saving our freedom and our country. – Great question. Thank you for bringing that up. Students, that gives you some things to think about
in terms of how powerful that symbol is and I love that you’ve got the flag hanging
in the back of the classroom there on clear display. Thank you for that.
How inspiring that symbol was for the troops who were fighting so hard
to maintain that symbol. I’d mentioned earlier that World War II Museum with those budding issues on their equipment
and from where were broadcasting today started as the national D-Day museum. Everybody thinks of June 6, 1944, Normandy, France
when they hear D-Day museum. This museum covers the war from before
we got into it, the United States got into it
on through post-war at this point. They have a pavilion dedicated to both
the road to Berlin and the road to Tokyo. There’s a map on display here that shows
D-Day landings in the Pacific. The first time I saw that map I was struck by the fact
you mentioned there were lots of little islands [inaudible 00:28:03]
When you hear lots you might be thinking 15, 20, 50. When that map it was an interactive map
that when you pressed a button it would light up the D-Days, the dedicated landing days in the Pacific. There were over 400 lights
that popped up on that map of islands that we had landed on in the Pacific. Of those aside from the fact
that it was enemy territory, showed that we were making progress
why else was Iwo Jima so important? Our B-29s, huge aircraft that had 11 or 12 highly skilled
trained Americans on it were flying back and forth
from the islands of Guam and Saipan all the way to Japan to drop bombs
to try to influence them to surrender. They were making trips back and forth constantly and we couldn’t send fighter planes with them
to protect them because the fighter planes didn’t have enough fuel to fly where they did. Some of them were injured
by aircraft [unintelligible 00:29:23] or ac-ac guns we called it or they ran out of fuel and they had to ditch in the ocean
and there was no way of rescuing them so we lost them. Iwo Jima was only 600 miles from Japan. Once we got it we could put fighter planes there and protect those B-29s flying back and forth. It became a huge airbase as a result of our taking it
and saved thousands and thousands of lives. – Thank you. Good question to bring up
and a good piece of history there. I’d like to turn a little [inaudible 00:30:05]
history questions now. Some of the questions that some students send in that have to do with one of the things that we deal with
the Medal of Honor Foundation representing the society. That’s the values embodied in the Medal of Honor. One of those of course is courage.
There’s commitment, integrity, sacrifice of course and citizenship and patriotism. You’ve already touched on most of those
in one way or the other. One student wrote in and asked,
what gave you the strength to get through each day? – You’re going to think this is silly but I was engaged
to one of the most beautiful women in the world as far as I was concerned. My desire was to stay alive so I could come back to her.
I wanted to marry that young lady. It gave me courage and a purpose. I would never permit myself to think or let it go through my mind
over and over that I’m not going to make it. I did the opposite of that. I kept thinking I’m going to do this.
I’m going to survive. I am going to get home. That gave me courage to do whatever I had to do.
That was my goal. – That’s super. Greater purpose.
Now we know some of your motivation to get home and a related question that was also sent in
before we started today said, why did you put others before yourself
when you could have chosen to play it safe? I don’t know if you actually had a choice. Do your commanding officer said,
“Do you think you couldn’t do something?” We got a quick question here.
Did you marry that girl? – I did it and we were married for 63 years
and had two beautiful daughters. Now I got five grandsons and two great grandsons.
I’m the happiest man in town. – [laughs] That is wonderful. Even though you had that as your goal to get home you still took a job that was incredibly you knew
you had seen six people before you not make it out. You were willing to accept that job? – That is a difficult question. It really is. Here again I guess I felt as a youth
that I owed something to my country. I had a teacher her name was Nelma Morgan,
Miss Nelma Morgan. She devoted her whole life to teaching.
She is the one that really taught me the pledge of allegiance to the flag.
My folks didn’t do it and probably your folks are not doing it either because it’s just something that families normally will not do.
The other thing she taught me was how important it was to be proud that I was in America
that I lived in a free country. That perhaps I owed something back in some way for all the privileges that others had given me because before I got here
and certainly before you got here, there had been those that had sacrificed their lives
just so we could have all that that we have today. The privileges and a free country
and all the good things.
there had been those that had sacrificed their lives
just so we could have all that that we have today. The privileges and a free country
and all the good things. She taught me all of that and that stuck with me
. I felt an obligation that when somebody is trying to take
something valuable away from you you’ve got to do something about that.
I went for it. As I said I did not go to keep [inaudible 00:34:09].
I didn’t know I was going to have to do that. I didn’t realize I was going to have to do that
until I got in the Marine Corps. Those who had already been there were teaching us
what it is going to be like once we get there. Then I realized in order for us to win
they cannot. – Good lessons. Good things for our students to hear. T
hank you for that. Did you have any idea that your service
could end up with this? – Absolutely not. – Did you even know what it was? – Never heard of it. The day I received that on the White House lawn presented to me by President Harry S Truman, even though he put the ribbon around my neck
and congratulated me and even made the statement to me
as he did to others. I would rather have this medal
than to be President of the United States. That’s the value that he placed on the medal
he being a World War I veteran himself. He knew the value and the obligation that we were going to assume the minute we received that medal.
I’ve never heard tell of it. I didn’t know what impact it was going to have on my life.
It actually changed my life. I became a different person
because when I received this medal I didn’t receive it just because of what I did. I received it because of what others had done.
Others made it possible for me to receive the Medal of Honor. Had they not recommended–
had my commanding officer not recommended it, had my fellow Marines had not been willing
to substantiate what he said took place that particular day,
I couldn’t have received the Medal of Honor. I have said ever since I realized the impact of it the obligation that I had to assume
the moment I received it. Once I realized that then its significance grew
monumentally absolutely. I have said many, many times in my life I don’t wear the medal for what I did.
I was just doing that for which the Marine Corps trained me to do that’s what I’m supposed to do.
I’ll wear it for those who never got to come home. Those who sacrificed their lives
so that I could come back home to a free country. – I’m trusting here that most of our audience knows
that the Medal of Honor is the only medal for which servicemen and women are put in for that medal
by the people who were with them on the front lines in the action at the time
as opposed to by a commanding officer sitting in the back somewhere. That’s part of what differentiates it
from the others. – Let me mention.
There is one lady with the Medal of Honor. – Yes from the Civil War
and that we have a lesson on that by the way in both the elementary and secondary kids. Teachers go out there and look that up
and find out about Dr. Mary Walker. – That’s right. – More recently though because
the medal was codified in during World War I as a specific combat medal
and because women were not allowed in combat. That’s why we have not had more with being awarded the medal
but now that we allow women in combat that certainly that could change.
It is definitely a combat medal. The Medal of Honor you said then
changed your life because you had a little [inaudible 00:38:24]
the president one day and you were impressed by that. Then the next day I believe you had a chat with your more immediate boss,
the Commandant of the Marine Corps or he had a chat with you? – I think he had a chat with me. – Could you share that with us. – As a Marine enlisted person I never dreamed
that I would ever be in the presence
of the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps. He was on a pedestal that
I didn’t think I could ever even get close to but all of us Marines
who received the medal the same day I did. There were actually 13 of us
received the medal the same day. Of the 13 there were 9 Marines and the rest of them were Navy corpsman that belonged or worked with the Marines as a medic
and took care of us who were wounded and hurt. All the Marines had to appear individually
before the Commandant of the Marine Corps. I was literally frightened half to death
because I just never thought I would be in the presence of that person. Much of what he said to me
that day I don’t even remember. I was too scared I think. One of the things that I do remember
was that he said, “That medal does not belong to you.
It belongs to all those Marines who never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish”-
a word that has been lost to history, “that would tarnish that medal,”
meaning disgrace it in some way or have something
that would reflect badly upon it. I remember those words very, very well. – Sounds like it made a huge impression. – It did. – Yes definitely. I would like for us
to take a couple more questions from Kaneland if we could, says somebody got a question ready for us there? Thank you for thank you for sharing that about the–
I think it’s interesting that you didn’t say anything about being scared
when you were on Iwo Jima – but you sound like you were quivering
in your boots when you were talking
to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. – You’re right. – Marine Corps, thinking here yes.
Young lady would you please [unintelligible 00:41:03] your question. You mentioned an obligation
that comes with the medal. Can you tell us about some of those obligations? – Great question.
Obligations that come with the medal. – Okay. Well, I like all the others
who have received the Medal of Honor,
– Great question.
Obligations that come with the medal. – Okay. Well, I like all the others
who have received the Medal of Honor, could not have received it
unless an officer recommended it. An enlisted person in our military service
cannot recommend someone for the Medal of Honor. It must come from an officer. The second requirement is that
there must be these two witnesses that can confirm or verify what the commanding officer has written
as his recommendation. Once you receive the medal,
and most Medal of Honor recipients will tell you this, they don’t wear it for themselves.
They wear it for others. Which means that you’re taking on an obligation to pay tribute and high respect
to the medal itself and to all of those who may be in possession of it, and not to do anything that would reflect badly upon that person or the medal itself. – There’s a related question here
from a listener in California. When has been the most difficult part
of wearing that medal? I think adjusting your life because the minute you receive the medal,
you become a public figure whether you want to or not. You may not want to do that,
and there are those who would not ever accept it. You know some of those. The minute you received a medal,
you become a public figure and that means that you’re going to be called upon to do what we’re doing here today. If you had asked me before I went to Marine Corp,
I’d ever be talking to a group of students, I would have said absolutely no. They know more than I do, so I’m not going to do it. – Not to mention that most people are more scared of public speaking
than they are of death. – That’s right.
So that’s an obligation that you assume or accept because
just because you received the medal. – Well the flip side of the difficulty
of wearing that Medal of Honor, what have been some of the absolute highlights
of wearing that Medal of Honor? – The privileges that have come to me as a result
of having the medal are so numerous I could take out the rest of your time telling you. One of the things that sticks in my mind
and comes there first is from the time President Kennedy was [inaudible 00:44:17] we met a lot of recipients,
who were invited to come to the Inaugural in Washington DC
which happens every four years. It’s something that takes place in America
that does not take place anyplace else in the world, it is unique and different. So we’re invited to attend those inaugurals. I have had every member of my family
to be able to attend those inaugurals over the years, and we’ve never missed one.
Well without having received the Medal of Honor, that invitation would have never been there
and certainly as an individual not having any power or position of any kind,
I could have never arranged for that. – The other thing of course is there are things in my State
that carry my name on them. Like what used to be National Guard Armory
now is a Armed Forces training center. Meaning that all branches of service
use this training center to train their people, that has my name on it.
That could have never happened without the Medal of Honor. – In fact I hear you have a boat. – [laughs] Yes I have it. It’s a little boat, it only weighs 90,000 tons, that’s only 825 feet long and it carries a whole bunch of helicopters,
Osprey and Blackhawks and all those helicopters. It’s just a little teeny thing. – It’s called the USS? – No it’s not yet. – Not yet. – In May of next year, it will become a USS ship. There’s a difference between the USS ship
and a regular Navy ship. Right now it’s considered a Navy ship,
because it’s not a ship of war. Doesn’t have armor on it
so it can be able war ship. – But once it becomes a USS ship, then
it will be a warship and could participate in war. – Okay. Well, congratulations on that recognition.
That was pretty exciting. – I would correct a lady. – [laughs] I needed that information.
You educated me [unintelligible 00:46:51] I would suggest a change in language.
That’s not correction, that’s its exact. The VA Medical Center in my hometown,
just recently they was voted by the Congress to put my name on that Medical Center. Well, what I’m honored.
I never dreamed anything in my life could possibly happen like that, and boy often people will say as she did. It is named after me.
No, it’s named for me because I’m still here. – [laughs] Good point.
We hope you’re going to stick around a lot longer. One of the things that I want to play out,
I’m going to change direction a little bit here. I mentioned earlier that you have lived a full life of service
in addition to service with veterans and your service
directly to this country as a Marine. Also as service to the Medal of Honor Society
as their chaplain, and the terrific grandfather
and great-grandfather that you are and father, all kinds of life of service but you in these last few years
who have taken up yet another service. I want to give students a little background that you may not know about
, something I learned just in the last few days is that, before you went into the service
you delivered telegrams at the start of World War two. Those telegrams included notices of families
wounded and killed in action. – Yes. I wanted to go into Marine Corp here again to save my country and my freedom. I’d already enlist them but there were so many young people
wanting to get in to war, because we’ve got to win this thing
or we’re going to lose everything. So they were coming in so rapidly that the Armed Forces
couldn’t find enough people to train them. So we had a waiting period
and I had to wait a little better than two months before they could actually accept me and five other guys
that were going into the Marine Corps from my area. During that period of time, I’d already quit my previous job.
I got a job driving a taxicab. I was working from 6:00 in the evening till 6:00 in the morning,
a 12-hour shift every night. At that time, the notice of someone being killed
in the Armed Forces was notified by the delivery of a telegram
to the family. That’s the way we did it in World War I,
would continue to do it in World War II. Those telegrams
would come in to the western union office or the message would and then fix up a telegram,
then they would call a cab company because the western union office didn’t any cars or people.
They’d call the cab company and say, “We have a telegram to be delivered
to such and such address.” We cab drivers were the people
who were delivering those messages. The people in the community,
once they saw the envelope which was a different color than any other envelope, they already knew. Once they saw that envelope,
they knew it was bad news. Somebody in the family had been killed.
I delivered some of those. I was 19 years old at the time.
It was very traumatic because as a 19-year-old boy,
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to talk to people
or assist them in their grief or in the traumatic experience
that they just had. It left a lasting impression on me.
From that, I think over the years, it influenced my thinking to get into the program
that we are in now. – To connect, to give students
a little more idea about this, probably many of you have seen the movieSaving Private Ryan.
If you haven’t, you should. There is a scene in that movie
where from the camera angle, the audience is looking out through a screen door
like a screened in porch out onto the steps down to a sidewalk. That scene took me right back.
That was exactly what my grandma’s house looked like. My grandma had all three sons in World War II. As I was watching that movie,
the young man came up the sidewalk and turned holding that Western Union telegram and walked up to the front door
and I thought at that moment, “My gosh, my grandmother lived that
because she lost one of her sons at the D-Day invasion.” I want to make that connection so that you can see that
and see the intensity of that moment and then think about what he’s doing now. He has started
a Gold Star families recognition program and I would like you to tell them
a little bit about that. – Well, let’s go one back to World War I. In World War I, Mama’s, mothers of those who were– who lost a son in World War I, they decided they wanted something to show
that they had lost a loved one and they develop what is known as a Gold Star Flag. If a home lost a loved one,
they’d put this in the window or on the front door so that people in the community would know
that this home lost somebody in war. That [inaudible 00:52:52] during World War I.
After World War I, we didn’t use it anymore. Those that were lost during the period between World War I,
World War II and we had some. The Gold Star Flag wasn’t used
because they were not killed in war. Then when World War II came along,
the Gold Star Flag came back into play again because we were losing not only sons
but fathers and brothers. somebody came up with the idea,
“Well, that’s good. That’s what we should do but we should also let people know that we have some [inaudible 00:53:40]
serving in the war that’s protecting our freedom”. The Blue Star Flag was developed. These hung in the window of those who had somebody
serving in the armed forces, any branch. My mother had three of these hanging in her front window. Two of my brothers were in Europe
and I was in the Pacific so they hung there all throughout the time we were gone
and fortunately we all got home. A child boyhood friend that he and I had gone to school together
for about seven years, his family had two of these Blue Stars
in their window, but Leonard, my buddy, he didn’t get home. They had to change the blue to the gold
because they lost a son. From that, there was never any recognition
in the country of those families that made that sacrifice. Gold Star Mothers are pretty well recognized
around over the country. The name itself is pretty well recognized, but probably the most of us have never even heard the term
Gold Star Dad. For whatever reason, we didn’t use that term. Finally, it’s certainly dawned on me,
a dad came to me and said– he had just lost a son in Afghanistan and he said, “Dads cry also.” From that, we began working on
trying to get some sort of a memorial that would honor the families
that sacrifice for us. We started a program to do that very thing and I’m very proud to say that in our little State
of West Virginia, we had the first one ever done in the United States
and from that, we have five in various communities
around [unintelligible 00:56:00] in the process and we’ll find to get one on the Capitol grounds
and we just dedicated one here on the Capitol grounds of Baton Rouge. The first one on Capitol grounds. We have about 42 of these
throughout the country some place. Various states, 36 states involved so far, but every state has these
who have lost a loved one. Let me ask a question to the students here. Do any of you, or do you know,
of any relative of any degree, regardless of the relationship that somewhere
in the background of your family or relations, that somebody went to war or went to the military
and never got home? How many? Is there any in this group? – There are.
– There are. – Quite a few.
– Quite a few. We find these in every group.
They’ve never been recognized. This is to honor them for their sacrifice
because they gave up more than we did. – You can go online and look for the Hershey–
the Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams foundation and you’ll be able to see the monuments
and read about them. There’s news coverage from Sunday
when they dedicated the monument here in Louisiana and you can see
if there’s already one in your state. This hour has flown by.
We’re only getting started. It’s 95 years and we did it in an hour.
Before we sign off, I know there’s a message waiting
from the class from Kaneland and probably from every side as well. Do you want to say something? – Happy birthday Woody. [laughter] – Thank You. – Great. It’s been wonderful
having everybody on here today. I apologize that we didn’t get you more questions
there are lots of great questions. An hour is just too short.
Maybe we’ll do another one of these sometimes, I don’t know if we’ll have to do that. – Thanks all of you for your time
and all that you do for us. We have some information slides up here at the end for teachers to get your CE certificate. For this webinar, it will be emailed automatically
if you were here for the entire program. If you log on afterwards, you need to take the CE quiz
and all the information is there on edweb.net. We want to thank Edward for doing that. We really want to give a big shout out
to the World War II Museum once more for letting us broadcast from here at their home.
It’s great. You can also go on the Medal of Honor Foundation website
www.themedalofhonor.com to request more information
about the character development program and also to go back and review this webinar live and sign up for the next one. We have another one in a month. We will be interviewing Medal of Honor recipient
Robert Modrzejewski, Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient on Thursday, November 15.
We will be doing that from– we’ll actually be broadcasting
from a classroom in Southern California. Thank you all for your time.
Woody thank you so much, happy birthday Let’s do it again on 100. – Thank you, I’m willing.
Let’s do it again on 100. – Thank you, I’m willing. – Super Thanks all.

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