“He says, ‘You are My war-club, My weapon of war.’”
Congressional Resolution Establishes
the Medal of Honor, July 12, 1862
The President may award, and present in the name of Congress, a medal of honor of appropriate design, with ribbons and appurtenances, to a person who, while a member of the [armed forces], distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
n June 29, 2022, the last Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient of World War II died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia. Ninety-eight-year-old Herschel W. “Woody” Williams—the youngest of eleven children in 1942—tried to enlist in the Marine Corps at the age of 19. At 5’6” tall, he was rejected as too short. Within a year, the Corps had “relaxed” the height requirement and they welcomed Woody into the Corps. Great men sometimes come in small packages. A West Virginian through and through, Williams came from the state that has suffered more war casualties in the 20th century than any other state, per capita. His service in WWII in a flamethrower/demolition unit resulted for him in the highest award the United States can convey—The Medal of Honor.
The Medal of Honor, awarded for “Conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty”, shown here in the three military branch variations: (L-R) Air Force, Army and Navy
The MOH has a colorful and inspiring history, from its creation until today. The Navy was first to propose such a medal and the President signed it into law in December of 1861. Senator Henry Wilson, on behalf of the Army, proposed a similar award for the army, which passed into law on July 12, 1862. Today there are three versions of the medal itself—Army, Navy, and Air Force—although the criteria for becoming a recipient is technically the same. The Medal of Honor is the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America. The deed performed must be witnessed by at least two other individuals and the evidence incontestable. It must involve the risk of life and be distinguished as beyond the call of duty.