PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) He fought in one of World War II’s most notable battles, but this American hero's next challenge may be his biggest yet.
On this birthday of the US Marine Corps, we're introducing you to a real American hero and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. But on this Veteran's Day, he's hoping you think of veterans families who also made the sacrifice.
"Courage, integrity, commitment,” said Hershel “Woody” Williams.
Those are the words he tthinks of when he wears the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest military honor awarded for acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty. It was given to him by President Truman.
"It is a life changing experience because what you are before you no longer are,” he told FOX 29.
On February 23, 1945, Williams was credited with throwing himself past enemy lines in the fierce battle of Iwo Jima. He spent 4 hours fighting back Japanese enemy forces with a 70-pound flame thrower.
His actions helping fellow Marines raise the American flag in that iconic moment in history.
Now at 91, is the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from the Battle of Iwo Jima.
"I don't wear it for what I did. I don't wear it for me. When I wear the medal I wear it for those who never got to go home,” Williams explained.
Of the 42 million who served in the US military only 3,500 Medals of Honor were ever awarded. So Williams is now using that celebrity to help families of the military members who never made it home.
"America has never paid tribute to Gold Star families or even Gold Star mothers. We have no national monument anywhere that recognizes the sacrifice these people made to stay free,” Williams explained.
Williams has started a foundation to build memorials around the country; dedicated to the families of those who were lost in combat. He's hoping to have a Gold Star Memorial in every state in the next 5 years.
"To pay tribute to those families who gave a loved one in the Armed Forces for our freedom," he said.
Right now, there is a Gold Star Memorial in Valley Forge and another is planned for Philadelphia. If you would like to help donate, please click here.