Medal of Honor Day 2024 | Interviewing Catherine Williams

Today in honor of Medal of Honor Day we wanted to take a peak behind a Medal of Honor recipients life from a different angle. Both of our co-founders are military wives and know "she" has a story to share too. We are honored to interview Catherine Williams.

Introduction and Background: 

Could you please share a little about yourself and your family's journey with the military? 

 I am a mom to two boys, ages 7 and 3, and work full time as an Oncology Training Manager for an oncology diagnostics company based out of CA.  Matt and I have been married for 13 years, and we both grew up in Texas for most of our lives.   

Matt and I went to elementary school together, but then both of our families moved away, so it wasn’t until after collage at a mutual friends wedding that we “met” again and began dating.   

When we met in 2008, Matt had just returned home from his first deployment to Afghanistan, and was stationed at Fort Bragg with the 3rd Special Forces Group.  I eventually moved to North Carolina to be with him (while he was deployed of course) and we have lived in the area ever since.  Matt, like many Army Special Forces soldiers, was deployed multiple times during the height of the war in Afghanistan and a few to times to various areas in the years since.  Matt is now a SGM at 4th Battalion 1st Special Warfare training group and is headed towards 20 years of service. 

Understanding the Medal of Honor: 

For those who may not be familiar, could you explain what the Medal of Honor is and what it represents to you and your family? 

Can you share the story behind your spouse's act of valor that led to receiving the Medal of Honor? 

The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest award for military valor in action. The Medal is authorized for any military service member who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”  

There are currently 63 living Medal of Honor Recipients, and only 3536 Medals have been awarded since the first medal was earned in 1861 during the Civil War.  25 Medals have been earned during the Global War on Terror, with 9 of them being awarded posthumously. 

Matt’s action was on April 6, 2008, in which his ODA 3336 was on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets in Shok Valley, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. His team was inserted by helicopter in the bottom of a valley, with the target village at the top of a mountain.  As his assault element moved up the mountain, they were engaged by enemy machine gun, sniper, and RPG fire.  The lead portion of his team sustained several casualties, and at that point Matt lead a counter attack with a few teammates across the face of the mountain to get to the injured soldiers.  Over the course of several hours, Matt climbed his way up and down the mountain, carrying casualties to the evacuation point and then fighting to hold back the hundreds of enemy fighters to climb back up the mountain to assist.  The lone medic that day, Ron Shurer, who was able to render aid to the injured teammates and save their lives, and also received the Medal of Honor for his actions.  ODA 3336 all made it home from that day, with some severely injured, but they are all doing well today. 10 members of ODA3336 received Silver Stars based on their actions. 


 The Ceremony and Emotions: 

What was the Medal of Honor ceremony like for you and your family? 

Can you describe the emotions you felt when your spouse was recognized with the Medal of Honor? 

Matt got the call that he would receive the Medal of Honor 10 years after the action, so it was surprising and honestly came out of the blue.  The ceremony was surreal.  We had already been in DC for two days, doing press and meetings at the Pentagon, while friends and family began to arrive.  We had one son at the time who was 3, so we chose to not have him attend as the multiple days of events would have been difficult for him. 

The day of the ceremony, they bus all of our guests to the White House with a police escort.  Matt and I, and his immediate family were able to spend a few moments with the President prior to the ceremony, where we took pictures and he signed the official documentation of the Medal. 

I was then seated with his family in the front row; the room was full of hundreds of people, our family and friends, Matt’s entire team, Senators and Congressmen, heads of the military, etc.  When the music started announcing the President, and he and Matt entered the room, all you could hear was the sound of cameras and flashes.  The official citation was read, President Trump made some remarks, and then the Medal was placed on Matt’s neck.  After the ceremony there was a reception at the White House, and another ceremony the next day at the Pentagon. 

I am typically not an emotional person, especially in public, but as Matt stood in the center of the stage and the President introduced him to the room, tears started flowing and the ceremony hadn’t even started yet. 

The ceremony was beautiful, I’m sure Matt was incredibly uncomfortable being the center of attention!  I am so thankful that our families were there, specifically Matt’s parents, as seeing their son being honored that way must have made them so proud.  


Life After the Medal: 

How has life changed for your family since your spouse received the Medal of Honor? 

In what ways has the recognition impacted your spouse's view on service and duty? 


Life has definitely changed!  Matt is ask to attend a lot of events, speaking engagements, podcasts, etc.  When we attend events and Matt is wearing the Medal, he is asked to take pictures and meet people; our boys still ask why people want to talk to Daddy.  We have had the opportunity to attend some once in a lifetime events, but the most rewarding part is speaking to schools and other members of the military.  We are now part of the MOH family, and we like to spend time with the other recipients and their families.  It means a lot of travel, so schedules are busy with work, and kids, but we try to be selective on when we are gone.  Matt is still active duty, so his “real” job comes first, but he also know acknowledges the importance of sharing what the Medal means, and how it represents the selfless acts that members of our military are doing every day. 

 The recognition has only solidified Matt’s unwavering dedication to his service.  Matt joined the military right after 9/11, as he felt called to serve and protect this country.  When he was notified that he would be receiving the Medal of Honor, his number one concern was that it would not allow him to continue his job and committment to the US Special Forces.  Matt was able to delay the his MOH ceremony as he was scheduled to deploy, and didn’t want anything to interfere with his team and their training.  Matt went into the military never expecting to be recognized for anything that he has done, and chose to continue to serve after the Medal because of that. 

The Role of Support Systems: 

How important has the support system been for your family, especially within the military community? 

Can you speak to how companies like R. Riveter support military families and why it's important?  

Living here, in a military community, is comforting when your spouse is deployed and gone for long periods of time.  Being surrounded by those who understand what you are going through, and can laugh and cry with you, can make or break those rough days.  I think it is so important when family is far away to have your “person”, I know that would have really struggled here without her friendship! 

Companies like R. Riveter are so important because they support military families by employing military spouses, but most importantly they are bringing awareness to the sacrifice and strength that military spouses and families have.  All of R. Riveter’s success has helped to shed light on the individual stories of military spouses and the patriotism and commitment that these military families give our country.  R. Riveter is  providing military spouses the ability to work, no matter where they are located, which is empowering! 


Educating the Public: 

Why do you think it's important for civilians to understand and commemorate the significance of the Medal of Honor? 

What message do you think the Medal of Honor sends to younger generations about service and sacrifice? 

I think it is extremely important that civilians know and understand what the Medal of Honor is.  Behind every recipient of the Medal of Honor is a story, of an otherwise “ordinary” citizen who decided to serve their county, and then was put in a dire situation in combat in which they chose to risk their life to save others.  Anyone can be put into a situation in their daily lives, not matter how big or small, in which they need to embody what the Medal means; courage, commitment, sacrifice and patriotism.  I also think that is important to recognize our history, and the men and women from all different backgrounds who have come together to fight for the freedoms that we enjoy today. 

There probably isn’t enough room on the page for what I hope younger generations take from the stories of our service members.  I hope that the Medal of Honor and the stories behind it inspire younger generations and remind them that hard work, honesty, commitment, and resiliency is important.  I urge families to learn about the recipients, google the ones from your home state, and talk about their stories.   


Personal Reflections and Messages: 

Is there a particular story or moment of resilience that stands out to you from your spouse's service or from your journey as a military family? 

What message would you like to share with other families who are going through similar experiences of having a loved one in service or being recognized for their bravery? 

My stories of resilience are familiar to any military spouse: deployment dates being extended, everything in the house breaking the day after they leave, sick kids getting me sick with no one to help, and the panic and stress of hearing about our soldiers being in harms way without updates.  We (military spouses and moms) are all superheroes for making it through those days! 


Looking Forward: 

How do you and your family commemorate Medal of Honor Day? 

What hopes do you have for the future of military families and for the legacy of Medal of Honor recipients?  

This Medal of Honor day Matt and I will be in Washington, DC with many of the living recipients of the MOH for a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, which happens every year on March 25.  We will also be attending the Citizen’s Honors dinner, in which the Medal of Honor recipients recognize civilians/citizens for their heroic acts or service.  Next year’s Medal of Honor dat will be incredibly important as the National Medal of Honor museum will open in Arlington, TX, just next to the Dallas Cowboys stadium.  This project has taken 3 years to build and will be breathtaking! 

I hope that our country continues to respect and support the contributions of our military and their families. The number of living Medal of Honor recipients is slowly declining, as all of the WWII recipients have passed, and sadly we are losing many of the Vietnam recipients as well.  Our goal is to ensure their legacy by making sure their stories are told and sacrifices remembered. 


Additional Resources: 

 National Medal of Honor Museum: 

 Congressional Medal of Honor Society: