Hershel "Woody" Williams, a uniquely American hero and Medal of Honor recipient from World War II and the battle for Iwo Jima, will be in Corsicana Saturday, Nov. 2 to break ground for the Navarro County Gold Star Monument on the Courthouse lawn.
It honors Gold Star families, the children of the fallen, and relatives. The Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, in conjunction with the Bill McNutt Family Fund and the Texas Veterans Parade, announce that the next Gold Star Family Memorial will reside in Corsicana. The final installation and dedication will take place May 15, of next year, the day before the 2020 Texas Veterans Parade in Corsicana where Woody Williams will serve as the Grand Marshal.
"Navarro County has a rich and unique military history going back to the Texas Revolution,” Williams said. "This beautiful and unique black granite monument sends a message to the families of those who have sacrificed a loved one in military service for us and our freedom. I have worked with Bill McNutt on other World War II veterans initiatives. He convinced us that this central Texas community deserved to be selected."
Williams will talk about the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima and the sacrifice of his fellow Marines at the Nov. 2 ceremony. Also speaking will be two Gold Star mothers. "We are blessed to have Woody Williams come to our county and our courthouse,” said H.M. Davenport, Navarro County Judge. "We know the veterans community and history buffs from all over Texas will want to share this unique time with one of the last living heroes from World War II."
"This is an evergreen monument,” said Bill McNutt, Texas Veterans Parade Co-Founder and Chair of the Bill McNutt Family Fund. "It will be a constant reminder to our youth that freedom is not free, and a place for families to gather who have placed so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom."
On February 23, 1945, one of the most famous photographs in American history was taken of the Marines raising the American Flag on top of Mt. Suribachi over Iwo Jima. U.S. Marine Corporal Hershel "Woody" Williams, only 1,000 yards away, did not see the flag go up. He had accepted the challenge of opening a lane for infantry and tanks through a network of Japanese reinforced-concrete pillboxes. With four fellow Marines providing covering fire, he went forward alone with a 70-pound flamethrower and took out six pillboxes, killing the enemy in each.
For this action, President Harry Truman presented him with the Medal of Honor in October 1945 at the White House. Today Mr. Williams, the last Medal of Honor recipient from the Pacific War, has a new challenge. He is determined to build a monument to Gold Star Families, who have lost a family member in combat or military service, in all 50 states.
Williams had always wondered why families who lost loved ones in battle or military service did not regularly receive public recognition for their sacrifices. Six years ago, his organization began identifying worthy places across America to do just that. Places like Navarro County. In the spring of 1945 when the guns fell silent, Woody returned to the United States as one of 198 living Medal of Honor holders. 57.3% of those receiving our nation's highest honor received it posthumously.
Today, only three remain. The other two are Charles Coolidge in Tennessee and Francis Currey in New York. Mr. Bill McNutt, a 1973 Corsicana High School graduate, is the National Chairman of an organization called State Funeral for World War II Veterans that is actively trying to convince the President to designate a State Funeral in Washington, DC for the final MOH holder from the Second World War when they pass away. This will be a final salute to the greatest generation.
Over 1,300,000 Americans from the dawn of our republic have given their lives to defend our freedom. This includes 25,000 in the Revolutionary War, 655,000 in the Civil War, 116,516 in World War I, 405,399 in World War II, 58,209 in Vietnam, and more than 6,500 in the Wars on Terror. In other conflicts, service-related deaths are over 40,000.
Navarro County had 33 servicemen lose their lives in World War II, 22 men killed in the Korean War, 19 killed in the Vietnam War, and 23 in the War Between the States. Mr. William O’Brien gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Global War on Terror on March 15, 2008, in Iraq. His Mother, Ms. Dawn O'Brien Williamson will speak at the groundbreaking on November 2, 2019, as will another Gold Star Mother, Rachel Hawthorne.
Tim Gauna, a Rice High School graduate, was killed during the terrorist attack against the USS Cole on October 12, 2000. The black granite monument is six feet tall and composed of four panels. The granite comes from India and is unique in all the world. It will maintain its shine for over 100 years. Each panel has a separate theme. They are Homeland, Sacrifice, Patriot, and Family. "The phone books of Navarro County are still full of the names of families who lost a loved one from 1941 till the present day,
including Watkins, Whitlock, Willis, York, Taylor, Grimmett, Richardson, and Albritton to name but a few," said Mr. McNutt. If you have a family member who died in military service from 1941 till present day please reach out to Joe Hill at 430-775- 0856 so we can include you in the program for the groundbreaking Nov. 2," If your choir, band or civic group would like to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony please telephone that phone number as well.