Honoring America’s Heroes

Dear Citizens– Throughout its history, the United States has been blessed with men and women who have been willing to make incredible sacrifices in defense of the American dream. This land of the free has been so only because of the gallant efforts of those brave souls who call it home. This Memorial Day, the people of this nation will pause to pay tribute to those who have given all so that the freedoms of the American people can be preserved. So many of the selfless soldiers who left their loved ones behind to fight for the cause of good never came home. For them there was no return to their families and no ticker tape parades celebrating their heroism. Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the heroes who willingly paid the price that was necessary to protect what is undeniably the greatest nation in the world.

While Memorial Day is meant as a time of remembrance for those who have been lost, it also can be a time to pay tribute to the heroes who continue to serve and inspire. None are more inspirational than Hershel “Woody” Williams, a United States Marine who is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II. Williams will turn 99 in October of this year and continues on as the living embodiment of heroism and patriotism. He received his Medal of Honor, which is the highest and most prestigious military decoration awarded, during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. Under heavy fire and with cover from only four riflemen, Williams singlehandedly took out numerous pillboxes to reduce devastating machine gun fire so his company could reach its objective. For his “unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance” Williams received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman.

Williams showed the nation he was truly a hero through his bravery in combat, but his heroic acts began before he ever entered the service and continued after he retired. It was prior to the war that Williams delivered telegrams to military families notifying them of the death of a loved one. His time in that role led him to realize the “consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.” That experience led him to eventually create the Woody Williams Foundation, which has allowed Williams to commemorate the service and devotion to duty of the nation’s service men and women, and their families. To date, Woody and his foundation are responsible for establishing 96 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 79 additional monuments underway in 50 states and one U.S. Territory.

Not only is Hershel “Woody” Williams a hero, but he’s also someone who understands the importance of honoring and remembering the nation’s many other heroes who have sacrificed in the name of freedom. The commitment to service he has made in his own life should serve as an inspiration for all Americans, and should serve as a reminder that this nation must not and cannot forget the contributions made by those who answer the call to serve.

This session the Missouri General Assembly took action to ensure the extraordinary heroism of Hershel “Woody” Williams is honored and remembered. The legislature passed SCR 28 to call on the president to designate a state funeral for Williams in the event of his passing. It will be a time of incredible mourning as a nation says farewell to one of its greatest heroes, but also a time to bring the people of the United States together to pay tribute to the millions of soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have served in the Armed Forces.

The people of this nation hope that Williams has many more years of life ahead of him, and that his efforts will continue to shine a light on the contributions of the nation’s veterans. However, in the future when his story is a memory, it is imperative that the American people not forget it. The same holds true for the stories of the countless other brave souls who served and sacrificed. Memorial Day offers Americans that time to reflect and appreciate the many blessings its heroes have fought for and won. America is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.

For more information, contact Representative Patricia Pike at or call 573-751-5388.