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Medal of Honor recipient to address Gold Star Mothers in ceremony for fallen Kentucky troops

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel Williams salutes as the national anthem is sung before the Military Bowl football game in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 28, 2015.

STARS AND STRIPES

By KEITH LAWRENCE | Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky. | Published: February 9, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Hershel "Woody" Williams, the sole surviving U.S. Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, will be the keynote speaker at the Kentucky Department of the American Gold Star Mothers annual meeting and luncheon at noon on April 6 at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.

Williams, now 95, received the nation's highest honor for his "valiant devotion to duty" on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.

An online account of that battle says "when American tanks, trying to open a lane for infantry, encountered a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, Williams went forward alone with his 70-pound flamethrower to attempt the reduction of devastating machine gun fire from the unyielding positions."

It adds, "Covered by only four riflemen, he fought for four hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers. He returned to the front, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out one position after another. At one point, a wisp of smoke alerted him to the air vent of a Japanese bunker and he approached close enough to put the nozzle of his flamethrower through the hole, killing the occupants. On another occasion, he was charged by enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and he killed them with a burst of flame from his weapon."

The West Virginia native and 13 other servicemen were presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry S. Truman on October 5, 1945.

Also attending the April 6 meeting are Brigadier General Benjamin F. Adams III, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, and Shelia Brookins, National Guard spouse of the year for 2018.

Gold Star Mothers are those who have lost a son or daughter in war.

Cathy Mullins, spokeswoman for the Gold Star Mothers, said the program will include "a candle-lighting ceremony for Kentucky's fallen, symbolic tributes to remember the military suicide crisis and a time of remembrance for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day."

She said, "Veterans will also be honored and recognized during the program."

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