The Dignified Transfer of a True Hero

There are those among us who stnd a little above the crowd. They inspire us, humble us, and make us want to be better, or at the very least, they give us the hope that we can be better. Such a person was Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor from WWII.

I wrote about Woody at the time of his death last month. He was, for the military community and the Gold Star families, a well-known and much-beloved man, a man of warmth, generosity, and service right up to his last days. Indeed, that word, service, was the cornerstone of his character throughout his life.

Photo: YouTube/Patrick J. Hughes

If it had not been for his heroic actions on Iwo Jima in WWII, which were recognized by the awarding of the Medal of Honor, he would be like most of us, just a regular guy. But he was not “regular” in any way. He was, in his own life, an uncommon man, one who, in his humility and care for others, would live in a way that challenges all of us to be more involved in the service of others. He was a man of service. In his humility, he knew and expressed often that he wore the Medal of Honor not as a personal award but merely as a representative of those Marines he fought side-by-side with in the worst of all wars.

Woody’s service extended further for the rest of his life, as he became the greatest advocate for our Gold Star Families, those who live with the loss of one of their own family members in war. He was instrumental in bringing more attention to the sacrifices those families made for America. He helped establish memorials all over the country in honor of our Gold Star Families.

Photo: YouTube/Patrick J. Hughes

Because he was such a man, his passing did not go unrecognized. This video is of the “Dignified Transfer” ceremonies held for Woody at his passing. It is a raw video, with no dramatic music, no flowery prose involved, just the visuals of a very precise ceremony in honor of a military hero and a great American.

Woody was a Marine. This ceremony, therefore, is carried out by Marine “Body Bearers” in full dress uniforms and is conducted with the precision and care that the Marine Body Bearers are known for in their duties at Arlington National Cemetery. Note how high they lift Woody’s coffin as they carry his mortal remains with the silent dignity that is due to one who lived a life of heroic service, both in war and in peace.

Photo: YouTube/Patrick J. Hughes

You will note, too, that the flag that accompanies the Body Bearers is that of the Medal of Honor with its blue background and its 13 white stars, consisting of two chevrons of 5 stars and one of three, replicating the Medal of Honor Ribbon.

When you watch this video, enter into the silence and observe the military dignity being carried out by the Marine Body Bearers. Think about Woody, about the Gold Star Families, and all those who have given so much to preserve the liberties we all enjoy as Americans.

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