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Huntington VA hospital to be named after Hershel "Woody" Williams

The Huntington VA Medical Center will be renamed after West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel "Woody" Williams. (WCHS/WVAH) 

The Huntington VA Medical Center will be renamed after West Virginia’s only living Medal of Honor recipient.

The medical center will be renamed after Fairmont native Hershel “Woody” Williams, Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito announced Thursday.

“Having had a career as a Veterans Counselor and having the privilege of serving veterans in the VA Medical Hospitals in West Virginia, just the thought of having my name on the Huntington Medical Center, the first place I served, makes me extremely proud and humble. I am very grateful to all those who have worked toward making this a possibility, especially Brian Nimmo, the Huntington Medical Center Director who helped initiate the idea for this great honor and Senators Manchin and Capito for their special support and assistance in making it a reality. I give credit to the Veterans and families in West Virginia who have filled my life with the opportunity to serve,” Williams said in a release.

Williams joined the United States Marine Corps in 1943 and in February 1945, fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima in Japan. Williams said they anticipated the battle to last three to five days, but it took 36.

During the battle, Williams, a corporal, used his flamethrower to destroy a number of heavily fortified Japanese positions and killed several enemy soldiers.

"One of the seven pillboxes that I eliminated that day, I was told later after we got back to Guam, that somebody had counted 17 of them in that pillbox. Now, whether that's true or not I don't know. I never looked, because that wasn't my job,” Williams said in a 2015 interview.

In 1945, Williams was awarded with a Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for his unyielding determination and extraordinarily heroism.

In the years since Iwo Jima, Williams has worked to uphold the values of service and honor.

His Medal of Honor Foundation, which was established in 2012, is working to create a Gold Star Memorial in all 50 states. The memorials serve as a way to recognized each family’s sacrifice who has lost a loved one in war.

“Woody has dedicated his life to public service, and he has represented the state of West Virginia with the utmost honor and distinction. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Woody continued in public service at the Veterans Affairs Administration for 35 years. Even today, at the age of 93, Woody travels around the country to advocate for Veterans and their families, to include those who have given the most, Gold Star Families. It is only fitting that a West Virginia VA Medical Center be named to honor the service and sacrifice of Medal of Honor recipient and West Virginia icon, Woody Williams. I want to say to Woody how much I appreciate his friendship, his steadfast loyalty to his fellow Veterans, his selflessness, and his diligence in advocating for Veterans and their families,” Manchin said in a release.

“There are so many reasons that Woody deserves this honor, but top among them is his unwavering service to this country and to West Virginia,” Capito said. “He has touched many lives over the years and has dedicated his own life to serving others. I’m proud to call him a friend, and I’m thrilled that we are able to acknowledge his courage, his compassion, and his service in this way.”

To honor Williams’ service, both in World War II and the decades since, the U.S. Navy is naming a ship in his honor.

The USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams was launched on Aug. 19, in San Diego. Following the launch, the ship will be completed before being set to sea in early 2018.

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