Medal of Honor Recipient, WWII Veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams to speak at the 2019 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce

Medal of Honor Recipient, WWII Veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams to speak at the 2019 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce

INDIANAPOLIS (May 20, 2019) The 500 Festival, a nonprofit organization providing life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500®, today announces that Medal of Honor Recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams will be speaking at the 2019 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce. The Memorial Service will be held Friday, May 24 from Noon to 1:00 pm at the Indiana War Memorial in Downtown Indianapolis. The event is free and open to the public. In addition to speaking at the Memorial Service, Williams will be visiting the site of a future Gold Star Family Memorial to be constructed in the American Legion Mall in downtown Indianapolis and will be riding in the 2019 IPL 500 Festival Parade.


Hershel “Woody” Williams is the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor. Williams enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1943, serving during several battles in World War II. The last battle he served in was the Battle of Iwo Jima with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division. During the battle, Williams displayed “valiant devotion to duty” and service above self as he “enabled his company to reach its objective.” Mr. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism were recognized on October 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House.


“Each Memorial Day is a somber reminder of the true cost of freedom, and an opportunity to recognize the bravery of generations of service members,” said Hershel “Woody” Williams. “It’s an honor to attend this Memorial Service and pay tribute to Gold Star Families across the country.”


Mr. Williams’ devotion to duty, service members, veterans and their families began long before that battle and before he entered the Corps. As World War II began, Woody came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one. Woody says that those experiences gave him a “greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.”


“While we’re celebrating throughout the weekend, it’s important for us to pay tribute to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” said Bob Bryant, president and CEO of the 500 Festival. “We are grateful for Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams’ dedication to our country and his support of Gold Star Families throughout his lifetime. We look forward to hearing him speak at the 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce.”


Williams’ commitment to veterans and their families led him to establish the Hershel Woody Williams Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, Inc. was established in 2012 and is a charitable 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that pursues specific endeavors and goals through the vision of Medal of Honor Recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams. The Foundation encourages, with the assistance of the American public and community leaders, establishing permanent Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments in communities throughout the country and provides scholarships to eligible Gold Star Children. Its purpose is to honor Gold Star Families, relatives, and Gold Star Children who have sacrificed a loved one in the service of their country.


General Michael X. Garrett, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces, and Adjutant General of Indiana, Major General Courtney P. Carr will also speak at the 2019 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce, alongside Williams. Also in attendance will be Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.


The Memorial Service will also include the Military Department of Indiana’s Joint Service Color Guard posting of the colors and performances by the Capital City Chorus and the Indiana National Guard’s 38th Infantry Division Band. A wreath-laying ceremony and a horse-drawn caisson will be presented by the Indiana National Guard Headquarters Ceremonial Unit. The caisson carries the remains of the fallen service member, while the caparisoned horse trails behind.


To learn more about the 500 Festival Memorial Service, presented by Rolls-Royce, please visit


The 500 Festival Memorial Service is supported by: Rolls-Royce, OneAmerica, The American Legion, 95.5 WFMS, and WISH TV, who will broadcast the event to the Indianapolis market on Memorial Day at 10:00 a.m., commercial-free.


Note: To download a photo of Mr. Williams, click the hyperlink embedded in his name. Or you can click HERE.


About the 500 Festival

Founded in 1957, the 500 Festival is a not-for-profit organization that produces life-enriching events and programs that celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500® and foster a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana. One of the largest festivals in the nation, each year more than half a million people attend an event or program produced by the 500 Festival. Since its founding, the 500 Festival has contributed more than $400 million in economic value to Indianapolis. To learn more about the 500 Festival, please visit or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.