OCEANSIDE, Calif. (KGTV) — A Camp Pendleton-trained Marine veteran and last WWII Medal of Honor hero lain in honor Thursday at the US Capitol rotunda.
A unique ceremony paid tribute to Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams, the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient. Williams recently passed away at the age of 98.
“We have lost a deeply selfless American and a vital link to our nation's Greatest Generation,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
With an American flag draped over his casket, Williams was honored in a special ceremony. Speakers included Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"He made giving back a lifelong mission,” said Sen. McConnell.
Williams, who joined the Marines in 1943, trained at Camp Pendleton, before being sent to Guadalcanal.
In February 1945, he and his unit landed at Iwo Jima. As a young corporal, Williams went ahead of his unit and under fire, eliminated a series of Japanese machine gun positions with flamethrowers and demolition charges.
Later that year, Williams received the Medal of Honor from President Harry Truman.
In the decades that followed, he became an advocate for veterans, starting a foundation that helped create Gold Star memorials.
After his death, the American Legion led the push to have him lie in honor. Legion member Matthew Shuman was among those who walked into the Capitol to pay their respects.
“It was extremely humbling for me to be there, even for few short minutes. It was amazing to see our country honor and respect Woody the way he should be,” said Shuman.
Shuman says the ceremony was also a way to pay tribute to the Greatest Generation, including Oceanside resident Sid Zimman, a dive bomber gunner for the Marines during the war.
Zimman, who watched a video of the ceremony, hopes the tribute will help all, to not forget.
“It's a fellow Marine. He did his job … A tribute like this reminds people of the sacrifices that were required and were accomplished,” said Zimman.
After Williams' casket departed the capitol Thursday afternoon, there was a wreath laying ceremony at the National Mall. Only six other private citizens have lain in honor at the Capitol, including Reverend Billy Graham, Rosa Parks and four Capitol police officers.