POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — U.S. Marine Corps veteran Ray Stith celebrated his 100th birthday on Friday with a parade, proclamations in his honor and a visit from Medal of Honor recipient, and fellow West Virginian, Hershel “Woody” Williams.
During the parade lineup near Stith’s home on Birch Avenue, Williams, who is the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, spoke to the Register, explaining why he felt he needed to attend the celebration.
“Not everybody reaches to be 100 years old and besides, he’s a Marine, and we Marines stick together,” Williams said. “So I felt obligated to come and celebrate this day for him, not with him, but for him.”
When asked about his feelings regarding the importance of honoring veterans, particularly at this point in time, he said, “Especially right now, we need to get back to more patriotism than we’ve…, well, we’ve lost it,” Williams said. “I think the veterans are the individuals that if we can all come together and begin thinking together, we can have a tremendous influence on the future of this country.”
Lining up behind Williams were motorcycles, cars, trucks, vans, American flags and signs that read “thank you” and “happy birthday.”
Once Williams arrived at Stith’s home, the two visited and shared stories, watching the parade of well wishers.
Then, following the parade, Stith was presented with proclamations of recognition by representatives from U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, as well as Congresswoman Carol Miller. Gov. Jim Justice’s Chief of Staff Mike Hall presented Stith with the Distinguished West Virginian Award on behalf of the governor. Mayor Brian Billings and City Clerk Amber Tatterson also honored Stith with a framed proclamation from the city honoring him as a citizen of Point Pleasant who served his country in WWII.
Commissioner Rick Handley, who played a part in helping organize some of the festivities along with Stith’s brothers in the Marine Corps League Mason-Gallia-Meigs Detachment 1180, presented the veteran with a proclamation honoring him on behalf of the Mason County Commission.
Stith joked it only took him 100 years to receive all this recognition.
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Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.