BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — The families of West Virginia’s bravest who served in America’s wars are honored with memorials in almost every community. However, the newest salute to them is not set in stone. Rather, it is one that stretches for miles.
On Wednesday, September 30, 2020, Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) and CW4 Hershel “Woody” Williams (Ret.), the last surviving Medal of Honor Recipient from the Pacific Theater of World War II, dedicated a section of the West Virginia Turnpike as a Gold Star Families Memorial Highway.
Williams, a Harrison County native, was instrumental in the movement behind the Gold Star memorial, the 70th of its kind nationwide.
“We’re not here about us,” Williams said. “We’re here about them.”
From the I-64/I-77 split in Beckley to the state capital, 54 miles of one of West Virginia’s busiest highways is now dedicated to families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Teresa Brown was one of the Gold Star mothers who attended the dedication. Fifteen years after her son, Army Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brown, died while serving his second tour in Iraq, she knows her son’s legacy will live on forever.
“It’s amazing… and I do travel [the turnpike] a lot,” Brown said. “He will be remembered and all these soldiers will be remembered everywhere in every state.”
With how much traffic the turnpike attracts every day, Williams pondered about the impact the memorial will have on anyone who comes through West Virginia’s mountains.
“There are going to be untold numbers of individuals who… perhaps, realize that for the first time… there is a group of people who sacrificed one of their own for all of us,” Williams said.
The governor’s office said the Division of Highways unveiled the posted signs immediately after the dedication ceremony.