Heroism virtually unimaginable for most of us was commonplace during World War II. Four hundred seventy-two men and women performed deeds so courageous and selfless that they were honored with the Medal of Honor.
Just two of those representatives of the Greatest Generation remain among us today. They are Charles H. Coolidge of Tennessee and Hershel “Woody” Williams of West Virginia.
In a letter to President Donald Trump, members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation have urged him to authorize a state funeral for whichever of the two Medal of Honor holders passes last. The lawmakers explain that a state funeral for the last World War II Medal of Honor winner “would bring our country together ... to honor the Greatest Generation and all the 16 million men and women who served from 1941 to 1945.”
Indeed it would.
Both Williams and Coolidge are richly deserving of national honors.
Williams earned his Medal of Honor during the battle of Iwo Jima. A series of concrete-reinforced pillboxes had stopped U.S. tanks. Williams took his flamethrower and, under fierce enemy fire for four hours, cleaned out the enemy positions. No one can say how many American lives he saved.
Coolidge was in France when, in October 1944, his unit held off an enemy attack for four days. Coolidge was so damaging to the enemy that at one point, a German tank fired five cannon shots at him personally.
At 98 years of age, Coolidge still works every day at his family’s printing and engraving business.
At 96, Williams has been a tireless advocate for veterans, and has mounted a successful Gold Star Families memorial campaign to thank the families of those killed while in the service.
Their stories of individual heroism symbolize the entire generation of World War II. As the Mountain State lawmakers recognize, honoring whichever Medal of Honor winner passes last would be an appropriate national expression of gratitude to all who served during that conflict.
Trump should issue an order authorizing the requested state funeral as soon as possible. Given what the Greatest Generation did for us as a nation, it is little enough to do in return.