Updated: 4/21/2015 5:45 P.M.
Love of... and service to country: the message of a decorated World War II veteran from West Virginia.
Hershel "Woody" Williams is the only surviving West Virginia veteran of that war to receive the Medal of Honor.
Tuesday, he was honored with a "person of the year award" from Parkersburg Catholic High School.
He called on his young audience to serve their country, saying they don't necessarily have to join the military in order to do so.
"I hope these young folks receive that message," Williams said after Tuesday's program, "that we do have an obligation as an American to keep ourselves free, and to keep this thing we call patriotism and love of country going. If we lose that, we lose country."
The 91-year old Williams is involved with creating a "Gold Star Families Monument" in each of the 50 states.
It's a tribute for the sacrifice of one of their loved ones.
Monuments have already been put up in West Virginia and Kentucky.
Schools across the valley are taking part in honoring our veterans with pride, as many local kids have family who serve.
"I have every single family member in every single one except the Coast Guard,” says Cody, a third grader at Belmont Elementary School.
A former educator and Marine Corps veteran sees the big picture.
"I think the kids really comprehend what's going on and this is where it starts,” says Superintendent (Ret.) Dr. Harold Carl.
It’s a proud day at Belmont Elementary.
"Every year we take this opportunity to honor those that have served,” says kindergarten teacher Jenny Wince.
The last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima calls these very important functions.
"I realize that schools have a limit that they can do in the way of teaching patriotism and history,” says Hershel “Woody” Williams, guest of honor for the day-long festivities at Little Hocking Elementary.
People have a lot more respect for the military and love for their country.
"Because of such activities as these schools and administrators choose to put on voluntarily,” Carl says.
The school looks forward to this.
"The students take part in decorating,” Wince says. “They make up songs and they practice for the program and it's really a special time.”
Students can only benefit.
According to Williams, to be able to see live people who have been in war and who understand what it's really about -- and to share some of their experiences.
Cody appreciates the sacrifices our veterans make.
"They save our country from getting killed,” he says.
Williams says these types of events show the kids that being in the military is important, our freedom is important -- and the only way we can protect it is through military service.
Little Hocking Elementary students took the time to honor our veterans and meet the last living Medal of Honor recipient in West Virginia.
Woody Williams says it's such an important event because schools are limited in how much they can teach patriotism and history.
Students benefit from meeting war survivors who understand the experience.
"It gives them some concept that military service is important, our freedom is important and the only way we can keep our freedom and protect it is through our military service," Williams says.
He told the students World War II is the last war we actually fought to protect our freedom. Wars we've fought since then are to help others fight for freedom.