Only four WWII Medal of Honor recipients are alive.
From the top brass in US politics to the common people all around America, honoring US servicemen has always been an effort that a majority of people agree on, irrespective of their political, racial, gender, or religious inclinations.
Indeed, nothing can ever suffice to repay the sacrifices they made while serving their country with their sweat and blood, but America continues to honor those she can, while she can.
The Medal of Honor represents America’s highest military honor, given to those who served with the most exceptional bravery at the very risk of their own lives while serving the nation in conflicts.
Due to the nature of the Medal of Honor, many of its recipients have been honored with the medal posthumously. Since its inception, only 3,522 Medals of Honor have been awarded to United States servicemen. And out of this small number, only 464 received this most distinguished decoration for their heroic actions in World War II.
More than half of these WWII Medal of Honor recipients were honored posthumously. Today, there are only four living WWII Medal of Honor recipients left.
On January 30, 2019, the US representative for West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district, Carol Miller, presented a resolution in the US House of Representatives to honor WWII recipients of the Medal of Honor.
This resolution, tagged House Concurrent Resolution 10 of the 116th Congress, essentially proposes that the last surviving World War II recipient of the Medal of Honor should lie in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol upon their death.
Lying in honor at the US Capitol Rotunda is an honor accorded to just a handful of figures, particularly the nation’s most distinguished individuals. From the first such occasion in 1852, only 33 individuals have been granted the honor.
Among those who have lain in state at the Capitol are 12 US presidents, and four Unknown Soldiers who represent unidentified US service members who died while in service.
So far, this bill has gained bipartisan support from the leading figures of the Senate and House Veteran Affairs Committees.
As stated earlier, only four WWII Medal of Honor recipients are alive. And each of these men is at the height of old age.
The last four includes Technician 5th Grade Robert D. Maxwell of Colorado (98), Tech. Sgt. Charles H. Coolidge of Tennessee (97), former Marine Warrant Officer Hershel “Woody” Williams (95), and Tech. Sgt. Francis S. Currey of New York (93).
Among the notable individuals who support the bill are: Sen. Johnny Isakson, Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Commission (SVAC); Rep. Mark Takano, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC); Sen. Jon Tester, ranking member of SVAC; and Rep. Phil Roe, ranking member of HVAC.
Isakson and Roe are members of the Republican Party while Takano and Tester are members of the Democratic Party.
“I can’t think of anybody who would vote against that,” said Sen. Isakson during an interview.
The four living recipients of the Medal of Honor from WWII were all enlistees.
Hershel “Woody” Williams is the only living Marine to have earned the Medal of Honor for actions in WWII and is also the only living recipient of the honor from the Pacific theater of WWII.
As a corporal, Williams earned his Medal of Honor for his actions at Iwo Jima, where he played a crucial role in neutralizing one of the most desperately guarded Japanese strong points and helped his company to reach its objective.
Coolidge was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in France where he led a small unit against overwhelming German assaults for four days.
Currey earned his honor for taking out four enemy tanks with a bazooka and anti-tank grenades, while helping five trapped comrades to retire to safety during the Battle of Bulge.
Robert D. Maxwell was awarded the Medal of Honor for his instantaneous heroism in France, where he hurled himself over a grenade to protect his squad.
Following Miller’s presentation of the bill, letters have gone from the entire West Virginia and Missouri congressional delegations to President Donald Trump to request that a state funeral be made for the last Medal of Honor recipient from WWII upon death.
The two sides of America’s political divide seem to agree that it would be absolutely necessary to honor the last of the most distinguished national heroes of America’s “Greatest Generation.”
In the words of Bill McNutt, chairman and co-founder of State Funeral for WWII Veterans, “This country is so desperate for something that is unifying, not political, yet patriotic. This is all of those things.”