Family reflects on Woody Williams’ legacy
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Wednesday morning, Woody Williams, the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient died at the age of 98.
Brent Casey, Woody’s eldest grandson, sat down Thursday with WSAZ to reflect on the legacy his grandfather leaves behind.
“It’s really hard to put into words how big a legacy that really is,” Casey said.
When Casey was growing up, he said Woody was just “Papaw.” He was not able to grasp the American hero his grandfather truly was.
“He was just my grandfather,” he said. “He was a hero, but I really didn’t know it at the time. It wasn’t like he wore the Medal of Honor to Kroger or the gas station.”
It was not until Casey joined the Army that he realized how heroic his grandfather was, and the responsibility the medal brought.
He says everyone in his family served, and it was Woody who inspired him to join the military.
“I think he finally forgave me for joining the Army at some point. I think I was probably 50, a few years ago,” Casey said. “I think he just kind of built that into our family or we just kind of adopted that way of thinking from him.”
After Woody’s passing, Casey says the support is overwhelming, and these moments are bittersweet.
“It’s going to be difficult, but he made such an impact on me. Literally everything I have, everything I own physically, emotionally, I have because of my grandfather, Woody,” he said.
The legacy Woody leaves behind can be seen etched on signs, a naval ship, a VA Medical Center, but Casey says his grandfather’s heart was bigger than any landmark.
“The impression that he made on people will live longer than any of those things,” Casey said.
He says it’s still surreal his papaw, who he grew up with on the farm raising horses, was an American hero, and the lessons Woody taught him he says will stay with him forever.
“I feel like he was a part of saving my life 15 years ago. I was headed in the wrong direction, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Casey said.
We asked him how he’d like Woody to be remembered.
“I’d like him to be remembered as one of the most genuine, friendly, loving, patriotic, maybe patriotic should have been first, people that we’ve ever known. That we’ve had the privilege of knowing. One of the most humble heroes that this country has ever seen,” Casey said.
While it’s hard to say a final goodbye, Casey says he’s clinging to the privilege of years spent with Woody, lessons of patriotism, and appreciation of freedom.
“He was my hero. He was my best friend. He was a best friend to a lot of people, and it’s hard to see him go,” Casey said. “We’ll see him on the other side. He’s with my grandmother Ruby and he’s smiling down on us, and I couldn’t be more proud to be his grandson.”
A registry will be at Beard Mortuary from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Friday.
People can come and sign it if they cannot make it to Charleston for the funeral.
Casey says the family will get the book, and they would love to know people were there supporting and honoring Woody.
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