Push for a State Funeral for World War II Medal of Honor recipients picks up steam

Updated: Apr. 5, 2021 at 3:27 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Millions of American service women and men saved the world from tyranny in World War II, but some went above and beyond in their service. As we cling on to the remaining members of the Greatest Generation there is a widespread push to honor them like never before.

“These are genuine American heroes through and through,” said Keith Hardison, executive director of the Medal of Honor Heritage Center.

Of the 472 World War II Medal of Honor recipients, just two are still alive. Charles Coolidge, 99, of Chattanooga, TN and Woody Williams, 97, from Fairmont, WV. Coolidge single handedly fought off a swarm of Germans to save dozens of his own men. Williams saved ally lives on Iwo Jima with a flamethrower. These warriors are still going strong, but when the time comes to lay them to rest, some, like Hardison are calling for a proper sendoff.

“A State Funeral elevates the recognition. It is a very visible, tangible, official acknowledgement of the Greatest Generation,” said Hardison.

State Funerals are generally reserved for presidents, though every so often one is held for other outstanding Americans. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) says this is an appropriate occasion.

“It causes the attention of the nation to be turned to that service and sacrifice,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn says the decision rests with one person - President Joe Biden. Blackburn and the rest of the Tennessee delegation sent a letter to the administration hoping to get the president on board. The bipartisan proposal sent by advocates from across the country requests a State Funeral be held for whoever passes last between Coolidge and Williams.

“We’ve not received a response from them yet,” said Blackburn.

And though generals and high-ranking officials have been recognized with State Funerals, Bill McNutt, co-founder of State Funeral for World War II Veterans says this one would represent the common American who answered the call of duty.

“This can be the final salute to the Greatest Generation, and they’ll be saluting an enlisted man for the first time in a State Funeral setting,” said McNutt.

We reached out to the White House about this proposal but they did not indicate whether they are considering the proposal.

This push for the State Funeral began during the Trump administration, and while they did not get former President Trump to sign off on the proposal, they say they are more organized now and have broader support.

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