Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima, is in Hawaii for the events marking the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
But that’s not the only reason he’s here — he’s also on a mission to honor Gold Star families, those who lost a loved one in service of their country.
Williams is doing so by putting up monuments in communities across the country and says one is coming to Oahu, too.
He told KHON2 that his foundation, the Hershel Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, will build the monument in Kaneohe at the Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery outside the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery to recognize and pay tribute to families who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.
“Our purpose is to have community — first of all every state, at least — but many communities in every state,” Williams said.
Williams also shared with his own story and says two servicemen sacrificed their lives to protect his.
“I was a flamethrower operator, that was my job,” he said. “I’ve been trained to use the flame for the purpose of putting it in a cave to eliminate the enemy and to put it into reinforced concrete pillboxes to eliminate the enemy.
“I survived four hours of doing that with a lot of help from other Marines, and two of them gave their lives protecting mine, so I wear the medal on their behalf.”
The monument Williams plans to build will be about 14 feet long and 6 feet high at its highest point.
According to his foundation, there have been 17 memorial monuments and more than 30 already in progress.
“The most touching thing about the monuments is that you see the impact that it has on these families,” said foundation president and executive director of operations Chad Graham. “They just appreciate that their fallen heroes are not going to be forgotten and it also gives them a place that they can go meditate and think and celebrate the life of those that have fallen.”
Williams says he hopes more communities will take notice and want to honor Gold Star families. “They have never had any recognition, but they gave one of their own so we could stay free, so that’s our goal.”
There is no timeline yet on when the Gold Star families memorial monument will be completed, but KHON2 was told they are hoping to have it done by the end of the year. We reached out to Hawaii Memorial Park Cemetery and we will let you know when we hear back from them.
Williams has also spent his time in Hawaii speaking to the public about his faith at the Ohana Baptist Church in Mapunapuna. His last scheduled appearance will be on Sunday, Dec. 4, during a special service.