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Texas legislature role for State Funeral for the Last World War II Medal of Honor Recipient
Dallas, Texas, 22 July 2019
The 86th Legislature of the State of Texas had requested the President of the United States to provide full state funeral honors to the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient. This initiative was spearheaded by state Representative Rick Miller and state Senator Brian Birdwell and led by Lee William (Bill) McNutt, the Chairman of the nonprofit State Funeral for World War II Veterans. It is a nationwide, bipartisan effort to pay the final tribute to the greatest generation of veterans.
The Texas State Legislature’s both chambers passed a joint resolution requesting the Trump Administration to provide a state funeral in Washington D.C. for the last remaining World War II Medal of Honor recipient when they pass away. 473 Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, and only three of those remained at that time.
“Texas is one of only three states that is home to more than one million veterans, along with California and Florida,” said Bill. “Getting a resolution supporting a State Funeral in Washington, DC for the final MOH recipient from World War II from the Lone Star State will have a positive impact on our work in other states.”
McNutt praised Senator Brian Birdwell for his service in the military and his efforts to pass a resolution in Austin with the help of Representative Miller, which was then signed by Governor Gregg Abbot.
McNutt stated that “We are blessed that a decorated military veteran, a holder of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, Senator Brian Birdwell displayed his love of the World War II Veteran by getting our resolution passed by both chambers in Austin with the help of fellow veteran Representative Miller and signed by Governor Gregg Abbot.”
Senator Birdwell expressed his pride in Texas for leading the initiative to give a State Funeral to the last World War II Medal of Honor recipient.
He said, “I am proud, as a Texas State Senator, a veteran, and a first-hand witness to the 9-11 attacks, that our state is among the leaders in the country to advance this initiative. A State Funeral for the last remaining World War II Medal of Honor recipient is a proper way to bid a final farewell to those brave men and women who preserved freedom on earth.”
Bill McNutt and the State Funeral for World War II Veterans organization sought public support for their campaign to have the President of the United States designate a state funeral for the final Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, as an ultimate salute to the 16 million men and women of the greatest generation who served in the military from 1941 to 1945. They had created a Change.org petition, and the White House has sole authority to implement this without the approval of Congress.
A State Funeral is a 7 to 10-day national event that includes ceremonies in the state where the honoree lived. Ceremonies in and around Washington, D.C., as well as in the state (or at Arlington National Cemetery) where the authorized individual has chosen to be interred. According to Whitehouse.gov, all funeral arrangements are made by The United States Military District of Washington, D.C., and include Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands, and/or gun support.
Presidents Ronald Reagan in 2004 and George Bush in 2018 both received State Funerals and General Douglas MacArthur received the last non-Presidential State Funeral in 1964. Rabel McNutt, a then 10-year-old girl from Dallas, proposed an effort to honor her godfather, Walter Ehlers, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient for his actions during the June 1944 Battle of Normandy.
At that time only Three World War II Medal of Honor recipients, Hershel "Woody" Williams, Francis (Frank) Currey, and Charles Coolidge, were alive and were over 90 years old.
Texas is one of four states that have passed a resolution honoring the last MOH holder. Texas has over one million veterans, and more than 50 Texans have received the Congressional Medal of Honor, including 31 in WWII and 13 in Vietnam. That is why Texas makes every effort to honor veterans and soldiers. Lee William Bill McNutt III also Founded the Texas Veterans Parade, Corsicana.
Texas Veterans Parade also commemorates its bravest citizens for their sacrifices, and the Texas Veterans Parade charter is simple yet powerful:
"To honor Texas Veterans from all wars and conflicts, to educate children/students about Freedom, Liberty and the sacrifices of Veterans"
Four months after this award ceremony, Hershel "Woody" Williams was reassigned to heaven.
He died in his beloved West Virginia on June 29, 2022. The five years of effort of Bill McNutt and the State Funeral for World War II organization paid off. On July 14, 2023, for the first time in the 246-year history of the United States, an enlisted man was allowed to be "lain in honor" in the rotunda of the capitol. That man was Hershel "Woody" Williams. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi and the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell spoke.
History was made.