Patriotism, heroism still alive in the US

Many Americans worry that traditional values such as patriotism and true heroism are becoming rare in our nation. Hershel “Woody” Williams is a living argument to the contrary.

Williams ought to be holed up at his home in Ona, West Virginia. At 97 years of age, he is well within the high-risk category for COVID-19.

Yet last Wednesday, he was in another small West Virginia town, Moundsville, helping dedicate the Marshall County Gold Star Families Memorial Monument. That was appropriate, because honoring Gold Star Families was his idea.

Williams, a Mountain State native and Marine veteran, is one of only two World War II Medal of Honor recipients still living. His stature in that regard has helped him promote a national campaign to honor families who sacrificed loved ones in military service. “You don’t say no to Woody,” a fellow Marine said.

He has been wildly successful. There are 70 Gold Star monuments in 49 states and territories. Another 72 are in the works. Williams travels widely to promote the initiative. He appears tireless. But traveling and appearing in public these days is risky. COVID-19 already has killed more than 213,000 Americans. Most of the fatalities have been older people.

Williams was just a young man when he joined other Marines in storming the island of Iwo Jima in early 1945. His unit pinned down by machine gun fire from a network of concrete pillboxes, Williams used a flamethrower to clear them out. He saved countless lives in an act of extraordinary heroism that earned him our nation’s highest military award.

Yet, at an age when he ought to be entitled to rest upon his laurels, Williams is battling another deadly enemy, the coronavirus, courageously. He is doing so to honor both those who served our nation and the families who sacrificed them. The success of his campaign is proof patriotism is alive and well throughout America. His courageous dedication to the cause shows we still have heroes among us. May the good Lord bless him and watch over him during this new battle. Woody Williams was — and is — a hero.


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