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D-Day hero receiving medals for saving 200 lives

A Marine plants a flag at Arlington National Cemetery (Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery/U.S. Army)
October 05, 2023

Staff Sgt. Waverly Woodson, an African American U.S. Army medic who is regarded as a World War II D-Day hero for his efforts that saved over 200 U.S. and British lives, will be posthumously awarded medals in an upcoming ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to the National Park Service, Woodson was born Aug. 3, 1922, and died Aug.12, 2005, at the age of 83. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

According to an Army press release, Waverly Woodson’s wife, Joann Woodson, and his son will receive the World War II-era Bronze Star and the Combat Medic Badge on behalf of Woodson at a ceremony located at Woodson’s gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery on Oct. 11.

The event honoring Woodson’s heroic actions will feature multiple speakers, including First Army’s Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Prosser, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), retired Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, and retired Lt. Gen. Thomas James.

According to the Army’s press release, Woodson’s heroism has been featured in the book “Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, at Home and at War.” Additionally, the press release stated that over a dozen members of Congress are currently working to posthumously award Woodson with the Medal of Honor, which is the highest medal for combat valor a U.S. service member can receive.

The Army pointed to a press release that was sent out after D-Day that recalled how Woodson had saved over 200 casualties during the D-Day invasion in France by working 30 hours straight in spite of his own injuries to save U.S. and British troops.

The Army also noted that evidence recently uncovered by the First Army’s historian shows that Woodson was nominated for the Medal of Honor during World War II but never received the award due to alleged racism, lost records, and disagreement between senior military leaders during the war.

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The Bronze Star that will be presented to Woodson’s family on behalf of the former Army medic was originally authorized in 1945; however, Woodson was never formally presented the Bronze Star because he had to quickly leave Europe to prepare for deployment in the war effort against Japan. The Combat Medic Badge was approved for Woodson more recently in August.

While Woodson’s heroic actions will be honored through the presentation of the Bronze Star and Combat Medic Badge, Hollen has continued pushing for the World War II medic to be awarded the Medal of Honor. In 2020, he introduced bipartisan legislation to honor Woodson with the award.

“Cpl. Waverly Woodson’s bravery during the D-Day invasion saved dozens – if not hundreds – of American lives,” he said at the time. “But his valor was never fully recognized due to the color of his skin. That’s unacceptable. It’s past time that we right this historical wrong and provide Cpl. Woodson and his family with the recognition that his heroism merits.”

Joann Woodson has explained that posthumously awarding her husband with the Medal of Honor would preserve his legacy.

“This is a chance to preserve Waverly’s legacy and correct history,” she said. “He felt serving was his duty to his country. I want to thank everyone working in this effort to right this wrong and get my husband the recognition he deserves.”