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Veteran posthumously awarded Distinguished Service Cross

Waverly Woodson
Waverly Woodson
Waverly Woodson
Posted at 6:53 PM, Jun 20, 2024

BALTIMORE — A World War II Army Veteran is being recognized for his bravery and saving lives on D-Day 80 years ago on Normandy Beach.

Waverly Woodson Jr. has been posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

"For many years historians were naysayers, literally they just said there weren't any Black soldiers at Normandy on D-Day. In particular, in the first wave and unfortunately, they didn't know about my dad cause he was there," said Stephen Woodson who is Waverly Woodson’s son.

"D-Day was the most emotional and dangerous day in my life" those are the words written by hand on a piece of paper by Waverly Woodson Jr.

He was a medic and part of an all-Black unit that went to the beaches of Normandy during World War II. Now, he is being posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

"He was injured by fire as he went to the beach but nevertheless went on to save the lives by treating the wounds and injuries of over 100 of his fellow service men that day,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.

The Distinguished Service Cross goes to individuals who have shown extraordinary bravery and courage as Woodson did on D-Day. It's the second highest honor that can be bestowed on a member of the Army. Something Woodson didn't receive back when he should have because of the color of his skin.

"Because he was an African American and discrimination in the Army meant that many people who served our country bravely overseas came home to a continued divided society," said Van Hollen.

Senator Van Hollen has been working for years with the Woodson family, historians and most of all the Army to take another look at this case.

Van Hollen said, "This is a really important moment to right this historic wrong."

"For my dad it's recognition from his peers being the first Army in the U.S. Army. So it's an outstanding award and we're so elated to have it,” said Stephen.

Sitting on a desk is the Combat Medical Badge and the Bronze Star which Stephen said, was given to his dad later in his life. He said receiving the Distinguished Service Cross means the world to both his mom and him.

"There's been approximately 13,000 of those over a number of years awarded to soldiers only a handful have gone to people of color,” said Stephen.

The Army took the Distinguished Service Cross medal to Omaha Beach for the 80th anniversary of D-Day and put the medal in the sand where Waverly had gone ashore to perform his heroic deeds.

"That truly was one of the most touching things I’ve ever experienced around my dad's legacy," said Stephen.

Although Woodson died in 2005, his widow, Mrs. Woodson who is 95-years-old will be receiving the award.

Van Hollen said they are continuing their efforts to obtain the Medal of Honor for Waverly Woodson.

His son said all of Woodson’s awards will be going to the African American Museum of History in D.C.

Woodson's story is also featured on the new National Geographic Docuseries called "Erased: WW2's Heroes of Color."