tv U.S. Senate Sens. Manchin Capito Pay Tribute to WWII Veteran Hershel... CSPAN July 18, 2022 1:35am-2:02am EDT
mr. manchin: mr. president, i rise today to speak on a life and legacy of my dear friend, the last surviving world war ii medal of honor recipient, west virginian, and one of the last greatest generation woody williams of west virginia. before i begin today, i want to recognize members of woody's family who is here today with us in the gallery, recognizing all of them. i want to say thank you. thank you for being here and thank you for sharing woody all those years with me and shellie and all of our west virginians. we're here to respect his wishes honoring all veterans and their families and to pay respects to our nation's last living world war ii medal of honor recipient. and to the family, i want to say this. you're the legacy he was most proud of, all of you.
and i'm honored to welcome and senator capito, both of us are welcoming you which is woody's legacy still here. and thank you. but we're going to respect his wishes and his wishes basically were all veterans and their families and to pay respects to the nation's last living world war ii medal of honor recipient. it's been 77 years since woody williams quieted those machine guns on the sands of iwo jima. while he's now sadly gone, the ie zeals i lived by are not. the love of his family, faith, and friends and service to country above all. george wattton -- patton once said it's foolish to mourn the men who died. rather we should thank god that such men lived. he lived every day as if he were give given a second chance and we are you a all so much better for t. boy, did woody live for a long time. his grandson casey passed along
his recipe for a long life. i hope i got all this right. he would say when asked, its brags, apple cider vinegar and it has to have the mother and you know the cloudy stuff in the bottom of the bottle, mixed with local honey and six ounces of warm water. you can add some pure maple syrup for extra flavoring if you'd like. and woody said i've been drinking it every morning since the early 1960's. about three years ago he got it printed on a business card because he said he was so tired of reciting it every time someone asked. and he handed out quite a few of those cards, too. one of my favorite woody quotes is the one he cited when his grandson cedar graduated from marine boot camp. when woody was asked what it meant to be a marine, he said by taking that oath, you can take my life but you cannot take my country or my freedom. you cannot take my country or my freedom. that says it all about woody.
during the ceremony in west virginia last weekend, woody's grandson chad said we must remember what woody taught us. there are few things in the world that we can do alone. it is only through the support of others that we can truly reach our goals. so look to your left and look to your right. we are all a part of his legacy. and it is up to us to carry forward. in the words of woody, the cause is greater than i. one of the woody's last wishes was lying in state at the united states capitol. it wasn't for himself. we spoke about this years ago. it wasn't for himself. but he wanted to make sure we represent all medal of honor recipients from world war ii. and there were only 472 of the whole war, 472. tomorrow that the west virginia farm boy will lie in honor in the u.s. capitol r rotunda layig to rest the sacrifices of a
generation of heroes. that's what we do tomorrow. woody can rest in peace knowing his mission is complete. i will miss woody because he was my wingman or may i say n. we may be -- we're all his wingman. i think that's what he would have preferred. he always had a project for everyone around him. everyone setting up there, he had projects for you. he had projects for me and projects for shellie. he made sure we understood exactly what he wanted done. as his grandson brian casey said, if you met with woody, you know he always had a project for everyone. he would magically produce napkins and sharp pistol associations in his -- sharpies is with his projects. he would diagram while we watched and listened. they were not always unused napkinnings but they became works of art. he came to me and said we needed to help the gold star families across the country. we started a motorcycle ride for
fallen heroes. we did six of those rides and woody was in his 90's and he was there every time in that sling shot, just giving it all he had. and he stayed right with us. we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the gold star families, some of those funds as you know went into monuments across the nation, including the one that sits at the capitol we hon oord -- honored also with the laying of the wreath. i know many good things we worked on together. if you multiply that by all the other people he worked with, you will fully realize woody's incredible impact west -- on west virginia and the entire country. that's why he got his ship, a v.a. hospital and national guard reserve center named after him. most recently because of woody, our v.a. medical centers were saved. his testimony ended the air commission which would have turned three of our four west virginia v.a. medical centers into urgent care centers as well as countless others across the
nation. and really in rural america. rural veterans would not have been served. every veteran in the nation can thank woody for saving their v.a. hospital. woody was with me when i was governor and helped so much as we stood up to the cabinet secretary for veterans affairs. then he was the founding member of my senate veterans advisory group where he led efforts to clean up the clarksburg and beckly v.m.c.'s. he helped get the first fisher house. i remember we called ken fisher. ken came in, met with woody and it was over. it was going to be done. it was that quick. it was unbelievable. and i know it gave so much solace to the family when you got to spend a few moments in that beautiful place. it was really something. very, very special. woody has been there ever step of the way from making sure that families of the fallen receive gratuities during government shutdowns. that was the time that he said joe, we have to do something.
the shutdown is preventing us from giving the gratuities the families need. that's when we called ken fisher. that's when we all became very good friends at fisher house. ken was the leader of that. that's how that all began. ken was happy to step up. named the first gold star children's day was august 1. he was instrumental in that. also amazing that so many people from across the country and each of our states that we represent in this great deliberative body have so many good things to say about woody because his legacy runs further than just west virginia as you know. i didn't realize the magnitude of the impact until i traveled with him to california and also in virginia when his ship was commissioned and it was crist tended and when that happened, i mean from the brass all the way down to the ensigns on the ships, the marines lettered about being a marine because of studying woody williams. and i just -- i didn't realize the impact that he had.
it was unbelievable. and i'm there and i have all these people coming to me, telling me the impact that he had on them. and how much that they admired him. but i'm always remembering the one general telling me how they studied woody williams in the marine corps. i never forgot that. he said, let me tell you. i know you know him as your friend. i know you know him as representing your state. let me tell you how you represented the marine corps. that's the man we studied. so when marines learned how to be marines, they learned about woody williams. i always newest virginia had a treasure in woody. what i didn't know was that he was there treasure also. i will forever be thankful that woody and his family gave me the gift of spending time with him in huntington and when i was able to go down that sunday morning before he passed, it was such a special day and he was as bright as ever, you know. you would not think that anything was really that much
different. and i said, woody, i think someone wants to speak to you. it was denis mcdonough, who is the secretary of the v.a. for the united states of america. and he wanted to speak to woody. woody was so thrilled and it was a great conversation. and just -- its -- as true form as woody, mr. secretary, i have to tell you a couple of things and he went into exactly what needed to get done. it was just classic. dennis called me afterwards to explain the conversation. he was so tickled. and it took -- tickled woody also to be able to have that conversation. he was just full of life. he was still full of life. he was still full of ambition to get things accomplished. in his final days he stayed the same as i always knew him. he causes quick as a whip. he was kind, selfless and concerned for his fellow veterans and the families and all of you. he was concerned about everybody.
and he was ready. i will cherish being able to spend a little bit of my mine at the end there. woody gave me marching orders that day. he said, one of his last wishes was in closing the shelter at the donald c.canard facility. it is on our to-do list. it will get done. the families will be protected. it is something that should be done in every shelter in every v.a. burial ground and every v.a. cemetery. this project was bigger than just west virginia. it will probably lead to the national effort. i can promise you this, that we are going to get that done. that was a commitment we made to woody and it'll happen. as president biden said upon woody's pass, i don't throw the wood'd word hero around lightly. but if i'm going to use it i would use it for a guy like
woody. heroism, like it did for woody, can come in all different shapes and sizes. woody was far who are than just a hero. it was the greatest of the greatest generation and model for future generations. from what i know, woody's greatest wish was for all of us to continue his mission, to give back to each other and to love our country. and his grandson bryan said last week, i have the project that he wants each of you to work on. a couple of them actually. and today i will ask each of you to work on these projects, too. if gold star families in your area are traveling more than an hour to one of the gold star family memorial monuments, they are traveling too far. your project is to get a project working in your backyard. second, if you have a monument in your area, your project is to ensure the leaguecy that woody helped create by working to recognize these families, become part of the project, become part of the process to bring people back to that monument.
least we never forget these gold star families. as we celebrate the life and legislatecy of woody williams and all our veterans in world war ii, this evening and tomorrow, let us all do our best to continue woody's mission. may god rest the soul of our dear friend, our leader, our national hero, woody williams. and i yield the floor to my colleague, senator capito. mrs. capito: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from west virginia. mrs. capito: thank you, madam president. thank you, senator manchin, for such a gracious tribute to our good friend, woody williams, and his family, to his generation, and to his love of our country and a love of freedom, and thank you for the leadership that you showed to make sure that tomorrow could happen. i know we worked on this together, but it was -- this is not an easy lift to lie in honor, as you know, in the united states capitol.
but, to me, it's so symbolic of a generation. and i have encouraged everybody that i've seen to please come and pay their respects to woody or to that greatest generation that woody symbolizes in his passing. i also want to thank the family -- i can't see them from where i sit over here -- i'm right underneath you guys -- woody had two daughters and five grandsons and three great-grandchildren, one of which is is daughter, a great-granddaughter. and i have had the pleasure of spending time with them over the last several days. so i rise today to honor and celebrate the legacy of a hero and proud son of west virginia. he was always a proud son of west virginia. on june 9, woody williams passed away at the grand age of 98. tomorrow rightfully he will become just the seventh american and the first west virginian to lie in honor in the united
states capitol rotunda. it's a well-deserved recognition for a man from humble division. woody was the youngest of 11 children. i am going to tell one of my favorite encounters that i had with woody. he traveled everywhere. i mean, we would get on planes and woody would be on the plane coming to d.c. and you ask him, where is he going? oh, he is a he going to san francisco or he's going to seattle to do something for gold star families. or flip the coin in the super bowl. he had more energy than all of us put together. but he told me a lot of stories from his early life when i sat on the plane with him. he told me during world war ii when he was very anxious to sign up, as so many of them were at those young ages of 18, 19, and 20, he had a problem because he didn't real lay have a birth certificate. he was born in quiet dell, a little spot in the row on a
farm, but he told me that his mother had a really good friend and his mother's really good friend would come over and help her deliver her 11 children and then woody's mother would go over and help a friend deliver her seven or eight children, or however many she had. i think he told me in the end -- i will have to make sure i'm telling this right -- he told me that they had to drag his mother's friend down to the pure in the county to make sure when he wanted to sign up to join to make sure he was actually as old as he said he was. so being the youngest of 11, he made a lot of sacrifices for his family. but his acts of heroism would actually help the united states capture the pivotal island of iwo jima. many americans recognize the iconic image, raising the united states flag over mount
suribachi. patriotism, triumph. on the same day that photo was taken, a young marine corporal by the name of hershel woody williams was on that island risk risking his life. every time i heard him tell the story, i mentioned the folks that had his back and some of them didn't make it. woody, who was a member of the marine division alone stormed multiple enemy pillboxes neutralizing one after another, saving countless american lives behind him. he went on to fight throughout the entire five-week campaign on iwo jima until our forces finally took the japanese stronghold marking a key turning point for the allied cause. his actions that day and throughout the war are the
reason why when west virginia's think of the greatest generation, we think of woody williams. but what would set woody apart more than those acts of valor on the battlefield, it was what he did after that. how he carried himself in the more than 75 years since the second world war. through the hershel woody williams foundation, he worked to ensure that the memories of loved ones lost would go on forever. to date woody and his foundation have installed 104 gold star family monuments across this country with about 70 additional monuments under way in every state. through public appearance and his seemingly unending energy and passion, woody shared his story with the world. he was quite the speaker. i mean, i think senator manchin would agree with me.
that guy could give a speech. and it was always very captivating whenever woody was on the program. his mission was to inspire those, especially younger americans, to answer that same call to service that he did as a teenage boy. as he said years later, the people need to remember if we ever lose our freedom, we'll never be able to regain it. he believed that to every core of his body. there's no doubt in my mind that because of woody, there are more people who answer the call and chose to serve the united states in some way, shape, or form. what an incredible legacy to leave. he also never forgot his fellow veterans, serving as a veterans service rep for 33 years at the v.a. and i'm proud that that legacy of care lives on forever in the hershel woody williams v.a. medical care facility outside of
huntington, west virginia. senator manchin told me that that was one of woody's request, a is that he needs another exit for that hospital. joe, could you arrange that? woody did all of this with the same trademark humility we came to know and love about him. for instance, several years after president truman awarded him the medal of honor, woody says he remembers asking himself in that moment, why was i selected to receive our nation's highest award when marines right beside me didn't make it home? and that just tells you everything you need to know. that shows you the kind of man that woody williams was, always putting his country, his comrades first and never concerned with who got the credit. i counted among my life blessings to have had that close contact with him. but also that i was able to learn from him, laugh with him i
asked him, why the marines? why not the army? he said he was walking down the street. he saw a guy walking down the street and, man, did he look great in that uniform. he goes, that's what i want to be. i want to be a marine. but one of his family members told me at the funeral in west virginia several days ago that you need to add on there that he thought it would attract more women at the time. so he was thinking ahead. he was thinking ahead. i have to agree. that marine uniform is something quite special and so are the marines. the last thing i'll say son a personal note is -- say son a personal note is the many times that i saw woody being born in 1923 was a reflection of not just him. in his eyes and in the way he carried himself, i saw that whole greatest generation, from my dad who was also born in 1923
who served in world war ii, who left in country for a cause greater than themselves, who believed in protecting our freedoms, who went and fought for people they had never met, known, or seen. and when you think about it in the context of where we are today, you think, how special that was for our nation, for that greatest generation. so when i say goodbye to woody tomorrow when we have the ceremony tomorrow, we're saying goodbye and thank you to that greatest generation that my dad was a part of. and so it has a lot of, i think, nostalgia and remembrance in all of our hearts and admiration for their passion and love of our country. so tomorrow, as we honor a great man and tell his story, woody will still be doing what he's always done, and that is inspire us. so here's to a well-lived life
and a country well served, even long after he wore the marine uniform he loved so dearly. hoorah, woody. rest peacefully. thank you. mr. manchin: madam president, i no he that both of us want to thank speaker nancy pelosi and majority leader chuck schumer and ranking member of the republican party, mitch mcconnell, and all of the people who were so instrumental in making this happen. there's only been 35 people lying in state in this capitol. 35. out of millions and millions and millions. and it's a tremendous tribute for us, coming from our wonderful patriotic, beautiful state of west virginia, to have
the greatest generation being represented. and as woody would say is it's not him. it's for everybody. i hope all the families and anybody who had anyone who served -- shelly's dad was wounded in world war ii, purple heart, became our governor three times and he's a friend of mine. and my father and all my family served in world war ii. but to have so many people -- but woody is doing is that for them. tomorrow is for every person who has sacrificed and given their all and the families who've sacrificed also. so we want to thank them for making that happen. it was a great tribute and a great honor, i know, for the family and all of us. god bless you all and thank you for coming.