SPRINGFIELD – A joint resolution supported by State Representative Mark Batinick (R-Plainfield) to honor the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II has been adopted in the Illinois House of Representatives. Senate Joint Resolution 29 urges the President of the United States and the United States Congress to designate a state funeral for Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel Woodrow Williams. Chief Williams is the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II of the 353 Americans who served in the Second World War that received this honor.
“We are a nation and state indebted to those who served in our armed forces and it is imperative we recognize the courage of our World War II veterans,” said Rep. Batinick. “As the Greatest Generation’s memories rest in our hands to preserve them, I am proud to support this resolution to ensure our nation’s last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Second World War receives the hero’s funeral he deserves. This will cement his legacy in American history with the legacies of the 352 other Americans who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for freedom around this world.”
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, Chief Williams enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve from West Virginia in 1943. During the Battle for Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, then-Corporal Williams advanced alone when American tanks were delayed by Japanese guns, rough island terrain, and minefields. In an effort that lasted four hours under fire, he used demolition charges and flame throwers in order to annihilate enemy positions and enable his company in reaching its objective. On March 6th, Corporal Williams was wounded while in action. President Truman presented Corporal Williams with the Medal of Honor on October 5th, 1945 at the White House.
The United States Congress can pass a Concurrent Resolution to allow an individual to lie in state in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. SJR 29 states that historically, the President of the United States has designated state funerals for extraordinary Americans.
Illinois has a World War II Illinois Veterans Memorial in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield. According to the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, 987,000 Illinoisans served our country during World War II, and 22,000 Illinoisans made the ultimate sacrifice.