Hershel 'Woody' Williams, Last Living Medal Of Honor Recipient To Fight In Iwo Jima, To Visit North Port Middle School In Port St. Lucie
Port St. Lucie will welcome a true American hero when the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient to fight in Iwo Jima shares stories about his experience during World War II with local middle schoolers.
Former U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hershel "Woody" Williams, whose Medal of Honor Foundation helps bring Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments to cities across the country, will speak at North Port Middle School on Monday, Feb. 8.
"I'm looking forward to the kids having a primary source that is so rare," said Lynn Gruszka, North Port Middle's media specialist, calling Williams "a real, live national treasure."
Following his talk, a groundbreaking ceremony for Port St. Lucie's own Gold Star Monument will take place at Veterans Memorial Park at 2 p.m. The monument memorializes members of the U.S. Armed Forces who sacrificed their lives and honors the Gold Star Family Members (parents, children, siblings, etc.) who survive them.
"This is a first for Port St. Lucie to have a Medal of Honor [recipient] come to its Veterans Park, so the city I hope is excited, and I know the school is nervous and excited," said Roy Brewer, a veteran of the Vietnam War who sits on the committee responsible for bringing a Gold Star Monument to the Treasure Coast.
Williams fought against the Japanese, at one point leading the charge in wiping out the enemy's concrete fortifications with a flamethrower, while himself under fire much of the time. He continued to fight the five-week-long battle and was later wounded. He was awarded a Purple Heart.
In October 1945, President Harry S. Truman bestowed upon Williams the Medal of Honor, the highest award that can be given to military personnel.
Sixth-graders, as well as some seventh and eighth grade students, will listen to Williams share his story after participating in an orientation about WWII. The students have already read Williams' biography, according to Gruszka.
North Port Middle School has a close relationship with local veterans, Gruszka added. They mentor the children, participate in reading programs, and attend 9/11 remembrance ceremonies with students.
Brewer, who has previously spoken to schoolchildren himself, said the focus is often on conveying the importance of education.
"We try not to talk about the doom and gloom of war," he said.
Instead, Gruszka said, the veterans convey key ideas: integrity, commitment, sacrifice, service, patriotism and honor.
Williams' talk will also be attended by parents, community members and local dignitaries, such as members of the St. Lucie County School Board. Though the event is not open to the public, locals can hear from Williams later in the day at the groundbreaking ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park.
The Gold Star Monument, which will cost an estimated $32,000 to be funded by donors, will feature four panels, including a cut-out silhouette of a soldier standing in salute, palm trees to represent the Treasure Coast, a picture of the Iwo Jima flag raising, and an etching of a horse-drawn caisson.
Benches will surround the monument, and lights will illuminate it from the front and back.
Tax-deductible donations in support of the monument's construction can be made to: Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.