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Ceremony to break ground on Courthouse monument

Oct 31 2019
Corsicana Daily Sun

A groundbreaking ceremony for the Gold Star Family Memorial will begin at 10 a.m on Saturday, Nov. 2 on the Navarro County Courthouse lawn.

The Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, in conjunction with the Bill McNutt Family Fund and the Texas Veterans Parade, announced recently that the next Gold Star Family Memorial will reside in Corsicana.

Williams, one of three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients remaining from the Second World War, acted heroically during the Battle of Iwo Jima. His foundation seeks to establish a monument to Gold Star Families in each of the 50 states. A Gold Star Family is a family who has lost a loved one in combat or military service.

“Navarro County has a rich and unique military history going back to the Texas Revolution,” Williams said. “This beautiful and unique black granite monument sends a message to the families of those who have sacrificed a loved one in military service for us and our freedom. I have worked with Bill McNutt on other World War II veterans initiatives. He convinced us that this central Texas community deserved to be selected.”

Williams had always wondered why families who lost loved ones in battle or military service did not regularly receive public recognition for their sacrifices. Six years ago, his organization began working with selected and patriotic communities across America to fulfill his goal of a monument in all 50 states and in additional communities where Veterans were held in high esteem.

On Nov. 2 in Corsicana, Williams will talk about the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima and the sacrifice of his fellow Marines. Also speaking will be two Gold Star mothers and elected representatives from Austin, and Washington, D.C. Bands and choirs will provide festive music.

“We are blessed to have Woody Williams come to our county and our courthouse,” said H.M. Davenport, Navarro County Judge. “We know the veterans community and history buffs from all over Texas will want to share this unique time with one of the last living heroes from World War II.”

“This is an evergreen monument,” said Bill McNutt, Texas Veterans Parade Co-Founder and Chair of the Bill McNutt Family Fund. “It will be a constant reminder to our youth that freedom is not free. And it will be a place for military families to gather who have placed so costly a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.”

Feb. 23, 1945 was a pivotal day in the battle for Iwo Jima. It was the day the American flag was raised on Mount Suribachi and the day of Woody William’s Medal of Honor action.

Corporal Williams did not witness the American flag being raised. He was occupied approximately one thousand yards away with the 1st Battalion, 21st Marines. He accepted the challenge of opening a lane for infantry and tanks through a network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, going forward alone with a 70-pound flamethrower to reduce devastating machine gunfire. Two of the four rifleman providing covering fire for him were killed.

For more than four hours, Williams repeatedly returned to his lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain fresh flame throwers. He disabled six enemy pillboxes, killing all the enemy in each. President Harry Truman awarded him the Congressional Medal of Honor at the White House on Oct. 5, 1945.

Navarro County had 33 servicemen lose their lives in World War II, 22 men killed in the Korean War, 19 killed in the Vietnam War, and 19 in the War Between the States. William O’Brien gave the ultimate sacrifice during the Global War on Terror on March 15, 2008 in Iraq. His mother will speak at the ground breaking on Nov. 2, as will another Gold Star Mother, Rachel Hawthorne. Tim Gauna was killed during the terrorist attack against the U.S.S. Cole on Oct. 12, 2000.

The Bill McNutt Family Fund, established by Lee William (Bill) McNutt, has funded many Navarro County projects including bringing three Congressional Medal of Honor holders to speak to local students in Oct. 2012; providing the custom bronze statue of the Collin Street Baker in downtown Corsicana, unveiled in 2017; and the creating of the Texas Veterans Parade held on Armed Forces Day each May on the historic brick streets of Corsicana.

If your band, choir or service organization would like to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony, please contact Joe Hill, the Co-Chairman of the Texas Veterans Parade organization at 430-775-0856.