Many people recall Feb. 23, 1945, as the the day US soldiers raised the American flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima, a moment immortalized by photographer Joe Rosenthal in one of the most iconic images of World War II.
Hershel “Woody” Williams remembers the day differently. As the flag was being raised on Mount Suribachi, Williams was crawling through trenches with a 70-pound flamethrower taking out enemy pillboxes. Fighting machine-gun fire for hours, Williams torched seven outposts that day, earning the Medal of Honor for his bravery.
Sunday, the Marine Corps veteran will be a special guest at Boston’s annual Wounded Veterans Run Motorcycle Ride, a 28-mile ride to raise money for injured New England veterans. Williams, who’s 94 years old, is happy to be a part of any event that honors those who served and makes those who haven’t more involved and aware.
“It’s absolutely urgent that we have these functions that remind society as a whole that we are what we are, we are who we are, because others made it possible for us to be who we are,” Williams says.
With 6,000 motorcyclists expected to participate, the ride will roll from the Harley-Davidson dealership in Revere through Malden, Melrose, Wakefield, Saugus, Revere and East Boston. Money raised will help Captain Greg Galeazzi, Sergeant Brandon Korona, Sergeant Peter Rooney, and Corporal Brian Johnston, among many other injured veterans. More than most, Williams knows the sacrifice these soldiers have made
“The Medal of Honor that I wear, it doesn’t just represent me. It represents others that never got to come home, and I’ve said that ever since I received it,” Williams said. “I particularly wear it for two Marines who, on Feb. 23, 1945, sacrificed their lives protecting me. So I wear it specifically in their honor, and for all of those who never got to come back home.”
But don’t look for Williams to be riding Sunday.
“I don’t ride motorcycles,” he said. “I never jumped out of planes, either!”