Medal of Honor recipient speaks at Gold Star family monument ceremony
Hershel "Woody" Williams, 95, visited on June 26 and 27
FARMINGTON — The last living Medal of Honor recipient who served in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II discussed the importance of honoring families who lost a loved one who served in the armed forces during a ceremony earlier this week.
Hershel "Woody" Williams, 95, visited Farmington on June 26 and 27 as his foundation is collaborating with the local SJC Gold Star Families Memorial Monument committee to establish the first monument in New Mexico to honor Gold Star families and relatives.
Williams received the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945 from President Harry Truman for his service during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He is the only surviving Marine who received the medal for serving in WW2.
He formed the Hershel "Woody" Williams Medal of Honor Foundation in 2012 with the goal of establishing monuments across the country to honor Gold Star families.
When the Farmington monument is completed, Williams will have established monuments in 43 states.
A ground-breaking ceremony was held on the afternoon of June 27 at All Veterans Memorial Plaza within Animas Park. It was one of several events involving Williams in Farmington, including a private fundraiser on June 26.
Williams and Navajo Code Talker Thomas H. Begay attended the ceremony as well as local leaders and members of the monument committee.
Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett and former Gov. Susana Martinez spoke at the event along with Williams and monument committee co-chairs Martin Caddell and Gary Smouse.
"Woody and Thomas, we are forever grateful to both of you for your service and continued efforts to help families that experienced the greatest lost," Martinez said.
Caddell described the monument to The Daily Times as the crown jewel for the plaza. It will be about seven-feet tall, about 13-feet-long and weigh about 15,000 pounds.
The front of the monument will be the same as the other monuments across the country with the back of the monument featuring photos and inscriptions from the area.
A rendering of the monument is featured on a banner installed at the future site of the monument in the plaza.
During Williams' speech, he described why it was important for him to establish the foundation and work to honor Gold Star families.
"For whatever reasons, we have failed miserably in honoring the families that sacrificed one of their own," Williams said.
He added that many people will view the monument and learn that the freedom they experience is preserved by the families honored there.
"Our hearts tell us that this memorial will be a lasting tribute and honor to our loved ones and the loved ones of others," Williams said. "So that their sacrifice will not ever, ever be forgotten."
Williams ended his speech by reciting a piece of writing about Gold Star families.
"They sacrificed their lives, so we could be safe here. Let us all remember, what freedom really costs, never to forget the loved ones, that many of us lost," Williams said.
The project cost for the monument and work around the site is estimated at about $100,000.
Donations to the project can be made at http://www.hwwmohf.org/san-juan-cty-nm.html.
Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.