Lubbockites and advocates from across the country gathered in the Hub City, dedicating much of the week to celebrate our nation’s fallen heroes and those they left behind.
That included a visit from the only living World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams, who was welcomed to Lubbock for a three-day lineup of speaking engagements, tributes and a concert for Gold Star families and veterans.
The ceremonies kicked off Wednesday, with a heroes’ welcome for Williams, followed by an evening concert, “Every Star Remembered,” featuring a variety of Texas country music performers and promoted by Don Caldwell at the Cactus Theater.
On Thursday, Williams was honored during a fundraiser dinner supporting veterans and Lubbock’s Monument of Courage at the MCM Eleganté Hotel and Suites.
About 300 Lubbockites, Gold Star families from across the country and veterans attend the dinner to hear from Williams and other veterans advocates.
“Lubbock is a proud, patriotic city – we’re honored and privileged to have all of you with us tonight,” said Mayor Dan Pope. “We’re so happy that Mr. Williams has made (another) trip to Lubbock. We want to extend a great special West Texas greeting to you.”
Williams served as the keynote speaker at the “For Love of Country and Freedom” dinner. He was joined by guest speakers Jo Maitland, president of the Gold Star Mothers Association, and Cathy Metcalf, executive director of education with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
“It’s good to be in Lubbock again, and I’m happy to see the number of people who are here! Thank you for coming. “My goodness!” said Williams.
During his speech Williams expressed his appreciation for law enforcement in Lubbock and throughout the country.
Williams also talked about his journey and reasons to choose to be a part of the U.S. Marine Corps. The 97-year-old West Virginia native served in the Pacific theater during World War II. Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism and bravery during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.
“Since the inception of America, there have been people who love freedom to the extent that they would sacrifice their lives to keep up,” Williams said. “Over the centuries, individuals have volunteered to serve in the armed forces, so that the precious gift could not be taken.”
Talking about the importance of having an event like this, organizer and Lubbock area veterans advocate Danny Koch said the theme of event was love of country and freedom and to reinforce that America is worth saving and fighting for.
“We want to teach our children that selfless service is why it’s made America great,” Koch said. “There was always a son and daughter that would go to war.”
Koch praised Williams for his support for Gold Star families – families who have lost a soldier in the line of duty – which has included advocating for memorial to those families. One such memorial, Lubbock’s Monument of Courage at 84th Street and Nashville Avenue, was unveiled last year, and the week’s events and fundraisers are helping support it.
Jo Maitland, president of Gold Star Mothers Association, flew in from Florida to be a part of this event.
“When Danny invited us to this wonderful event, we knew that we were going to be able to be with Medal of Honor recipients, Purple Heart recipients, veterans, and some active duty,” she said. “So, when we get the opportunity to come in and honor them and their service, and on top of that, remember our children, we made the effort to do something that’s close to our heart.”
Earlier Thursday, Williams spoke with a group of local educators about the importance of teaching America’s youth about citizenship and patriotism, advocating for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Medal of Honor Character Development Program, which Roosevelt ISD participates in. More about that program is available through its website, https://www.cmohs.org/lessons/overview.
On Friday, Williams participated with other organizers and veterans advocates in a news conference advocating for veterans to have their own resting spot close to home in a proposed Lubbock Veteran Cemetery just east of Lubbock.