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Bill Ellis: Let's start off the year 2013 with some hope

Jan. 04, 2013 @ 10:37 AM

It is now 2013 and we wonder if it can top 2012, one of the historic years for our nation.  Internationally, politically, economically, diplomatically, athletically, militarily— just about any way you want to look at it, 2012 has been unusual.  

The Charleston Gazette, the newspaper I delivered each morning as a teenager at East Bank High School, featured some very special pictures on the front page of the Local Section, Dec. 26 and 27, 2012. The photographers had chosen some of their favorite pictures.  

Those superb photographers were Chip Ellis, Kenny Kemp, Lawrence Pierce and Chris Dorst. Over the years, I have marveled with the production of newspapers and magazines. I have had the good fortune of knowing many of the people who make newspapers and books possible. I was 5 years old and picked up my own copy of the “Baby Ray Reader,” first schoolbook I ever had in the grade we called Primer, the one before the first grade, and when I learned to read.

The picture I really connected with was Kemp’s photograph of Woody Williams, the only Medal of Honor recipient of West Virginia who is still living and doing well at the age of 88.

Herschel Woodrow “Woody” Williams, born in Fairmont, W.Va., October 2, 1923, is one of the greatest men I have ever met. He has a determination about life that has enabled him to be successful and one of the most honored citizens of our nation. He was once turned away from the United States Military for being too short, but he did enlist in the Marine Corps Reserve in Charleston, West Virginia, on May 26, 1943.

His Medal of Honor is the highest award bestowed by the United States. His Medal of Honor citation reads, “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Demolition Sergeant serving with the First Battalion, Twenty-First Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Island, 23 February 1945.”

He joined the ranks of the great military heroes of our nation, many of whom have come from West Virginia. “Woody” has been a special speaker for numerous events in Putnam County.  

Williams, like many military men, struggled through the after-effects of combat stress until 1962, when he experienced a religious renewal. He later served as chaplain of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society for 35 years.

“Woody” has been an active leader in his church and community. He is an energetic member of the Milton Rotary Club.  Rotary has a motto that says, “Service Above Self,” and that is the way this great Marine has lived his life.

On Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, Kitty and I presented a special program for Milton Rotary. Kitty sang appropriate Christmas music and I talked about the meaning of this exciting season of the year. During the meal, I had the privilege of sitting beside this highly decorated Marine. What a blessing! These kind of men give us hope for 2013.

Bill Ellis is a syndicated columnist who can be reached at P.O. Box 345, Scott Depot, WV 25560; phone 304-757-6089.