West Virginians react to the death of Woody Williams

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Reaction is pouring in from across West Virginia following the death of Medal of Honor recipient and World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams.

Williams died early Wednesday morning at the VA Medical Center in Huntington that bears his name.

State Adjutant Maj. Gen. Bill Crane of the West Virginia National Guard issued a statement sending condolences to family, friends and all those who knew and loved him.

“For the entirety of his life, Woody has demonstrated valor, humility, kindness and an unwavering dedication to veterans and Gold Star Families,” Crane wrote.”He will forever be an example of the embodiment of West Virginia values and is a hero to not only us, but so many across the country.”

Secretary of State Mac Warner, like so many, called Williams “an American hero.”

“Today, West Virginia and the United States mourns the loss of a true American hero. In battle and in life, Woody Williams was a role model for all of us. For many, he inspired us to military service,” Warner wrote.

Gov. Jim Justice, in part, said “the weight of this loss is profound.”

“Woody Williams will go down in history as one of the greatest West Virginians who ever lived, and we salute him for everything he gave to our state and our nation,” the governor wrote.

West Virginia Yeager International Airport Director and CEO Nick Keller released a statement about Williams’ legacy at the Charleston airport.

“Woody William’s devotion to service members, veterans, and their families was remarkable,” Keller said. “He was a true American hero, and his commitment to our service members will live on at CRW through the Woody Williams Military Flight Operations Center.”

The center was dedicated in July 2019 as part of the Home Base Program. It consists of flight planning, operations, briefing, equipment lockers, communications and office space that is utilized by military aviation units based at the airport for training detachments.

West Virginia’s congressional delegation expressed sorrow and grief for the fallen war veteran too. U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) referred to Williams as a good friend.

“I will miss riding with Woody during our annual motorcycle ride for Gold Star Families; he was always my wingman. One of my most cherished memories with Woody is traveling to California and Virginia with him when his ship was commissioned and christened. During those moments, Woody showed the world the true nature of being a West Virginian with his humility and grace,” Manchin wrote, in part.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) referred to Williams as “one of the best West Virginians we’ve ever known.”

“Woody embodied exactly what the Greatest Generation was all about: Service to country above self. Not only are his acts of valor on the battlefield well-documented, but the lives he touched in the years since serving had a lasting impact on every person he met,” Captio said in part of her statement.

Second District Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) offered his thoughts and prayers.

“Woody dedicated his life to service from the Battle of Iwo Jima to being an advocate for veterans up until his final days. His legacy will live on in West Virginia and beyond. My prayers are with his family and friends during this time. Rest in peace, Woody.”

First District Congresswoman Carol Miller (R-W.Va.) is reflecting on the impact Williams made across the state.

“Woody Williams embodied the ‘Greatest Generation.’ The Americans who volunteered to fight for their country. As a Medal of Honor recipient, Woody never quit helping his country and those who served,” Miller wrote.

Local leaders are sharing their thoughts on Williams’ legacy. Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said Williams served as an inspiration to her.

“Woody Williams has been instrumental in supporting West Virginia’s military members and families – especially through his work for Gold Star Families. He leaves behind a legacy of service and will certainly be missed,” Goodwin said.

State Department of Veterans Assistance Cabinet Secretary Ted Diaz said he will always honor his friendship with Williams.

“Woody was a good friend. He fought tirelessly for veterans here in West Virginia and throughout the nation,” Diaz said. “He will be sorely missed.”

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department also extended its condolences to the Williams’ family.

“He was an advocate for Veteran’s healthcare and public health in general. He leaves an enduring legacy and will be missed,” the department wrote.

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee wrote in a statement, “I was privileged to know Woody and to spend time with a hero from our Greatest Generation whose purpose has served as an inspiration to so many others across our state and nation. And while we grieve his loss, I believe his example will continue to inspire countless future generations. My heartfelt condolences go out to Woody’s family and all who knew and loved him.”

The Woody Williams Foundation confirmed Williams died at 3:15 a.m. Wednesday surrounded by family.

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