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West Virginia senators call for state funeral for America's last WWII Medal of Honor recipient

May 20 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WHSV) — West Virginia's senators represent different parties in Congress, but they've come together to introduce a bill requesting a state funeral for America's last World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

This past week, the nation's oldest Medal of Honor recipient, 98-year-old Bob Maxwell, died in Oregon. That leaves only three living Medal of Honor recipients from World War II, including West Virginia native and Iwo Jima veteran Woody Williams.

The bill introduced by Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) would grant the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient a state funeral to recognize their service and sacrifice while also acting "as a final salute to the Greatest Generation and those who wore the uniform from 1941 to 1945."

A state funeral is the highest honor the United States can bestow upon someone posthumously. Former presidents receive them, as do others "who have rendered distinguished service to the nation." Very few non-politicians or non-Supreme Court justices have received one, but Billy Graham and Rosa Parks each did.

While Congress can authorize the use of the U.S. Capitol rotunda for someone to lay in honor there, the president has to authorize the U.S. military to make arrangements for a full state funeral.

“This may be our last chance to come together as a country and salute the Greatest Generation with our nation’s highest honor," said Senator Manchin. "The women and men, like Woody Williams, who answered the call to service during WWII ensured that our democracy and our way of life prevailed. Their sacrifices and the hardships they have endured allow the rest of us to enjoy the unique freedoms that make this country the best on earth. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will pass this resolution. Let’s get this done before it’s too late.”

“Providing a state funeral for the last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient reflects the respect and gratitude we owe to an entire generation of veterans who have given so much to our country,” Senator Capito said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in cosponsoring this bill that would allow Americans across the country a very special opportunity to pay tribute to the Greatest Generation.”

“This bill for WWII State Funeral is of utmost importance to West Virginians and Americans alike as we must never forget our national treasures such as Medal of Honor Recipient “Woody” Williams and so many others that saved our country and secured our freedoms. This State Funeral would honor military service, and educate younger generations about the sacrifices of Americans in World War II, while providing a final salute to the greatest generation,” said Brent Casey, Director of the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation. “The designation of a State Funeral for the last surviving Medal of Honor Recipient by President Trump is urgent. The three living World War II Medal of Honor recipients’ ages are 93, 95, and 97. This solemn, patriotic and unique occasion, would pay tribute to all 16 million men and women from the greatest generation, World War II, and will unify the American people in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical way.”

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day, nothing would be more fitting as the passage of this bill out of the US Senate, encouraging the President to designate a single State Funeral for the last surviving Medal of Honor Recipient from World War II. This State Funeral would bring our country together for a final salute to all 16 million men and women from the Greatest generation who wore our nation’s uniform from 1941 to 1945,” said Bill McNutt, Cofounder and Chairman of the State Funeral for World War II Veterans Organization.