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More than 100 people attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new veterans’ memorial in Oldham County, including World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams.
Williams, a survivor of the Battle of Iwo Jima, was guest speaker for the event and said he was thankful to be a part of the ceremony.
"True Americans want to be involved in the future of America," he said. "We must continue to remind ourselves of the sacrifices that have been made by so many."
Williams said he believes today's youth are losing respect for the American flag and for what it stands. He also said students are not being taught enough in schools about the nation's past.
Williams said he is hopeful the memorial, which will be built in front of South Oldham High, will promote an interest and understanding in the veterans of wars past.
Education is one of the main goals of the memorial, said Don Helton, who chairs the board responsible for making the Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky a reality.
Helton said there are two driving forces behind the park: recognition and education.
He said he wanted visitors to recognize the sacrifices of veterans from all eras and all military branches, and for students also to learn about the country's past conflicts which, he agreed, isn’t being taught enough in today's schools.
"Veterans are the backbone of American freedom," Helton said. "We must never forget the sacrifices that veterans have made for their country.”
The memorial will be depicted as a timeline of sorts, a chronological walkway highlighting wars and important events in American military history.
The memorial's architect, Fran Scott, said his struggles in history class as a student inspired the design.
"I never could keep the events in chronological order in my head," Scott said. "So, that inspired the design. Every three feet will equal one year on the walkway with various events marking important dates."
Williams, who is the only living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, tried to enlist at the beginning of World War II but was turned away because he was too short.
After the conflict escalated, he was accepted and joined the Marine Corps.
After making stops at Guadalcanal and Guam, Williams was deployed to Iwo Jima.
Williams earned his Medal of Honor on Feb. 23, 1945, when his tank battalion was pinned down by minefields and heavy artillery.
In order to break up the encamped Japanese soldiers, Williams went after them himself armed with a flamethrower.
After four hours of combat, Williams succeeded in pushing the enemy back, which freed up the tanks.
Today, he is a renowned speaker for all military branches and said he wants Americans to know what servicemen and women have done their country.
"We are failing to teach our youth that loving America is the most important thing we can do as a society," Williams said. "We are still the most blessed people on earth."
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