Iwo vets visit on 69th anniversary

Iwo vets visit on 69th anniversary

Marines invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 and the siege lasted until March 26. On the fourth day of the battle, Feb. 23, Marines Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon, Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes and Mike Strank, and Navy corpsman John Bradley raised the American flag at the peak of Mount Suribachi.

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Feb. 14, 2014) - Eight Iwo Jima veterans, some with family, friends and fellow Marines by their side, gathered at the National Museum of the Marine Corps for an Iwo Jima commemoration on Feb. 14, 2014.

Although the commandant of the Marine Corps wasn't able to make it, LtGen Kenneth Glueck, deputy commandant of Combat Development and Integration and commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, took his place and delivered a speech that led the audience in a standing ovation to honor the 69th anniversary of the battle on Iwo Jima.

Marines invaded Iwo Jima on Feb. 19, 1945 and the siege lasted until March 26. On the fourth day of the battle, Feb. 23, Marines Harlon Block, Rene Gagnon, Franklin Sousley, Ira Hayes and Mike Strank, and Navy corpsman John Bradley raised the American flag at the peak of Mount Suribachi. Joe Rosenthal, with the Associated Press, photographed the flag raising capturing, a picture that rallied the American people and became the iconic image of the Marine Corps.

According to the Navy, the 36-day assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead.

"Today we gather in the National Museum of the Marine Corps," said Glueck. "The design is a reflection of that moment in time when six young men who embodied the strength of our military and the diversity of our nation stood together for their country."

Veterans were given the opportunity to roam the halls that capture the history and evolution of the Marine Corps. Frank Matthews, an Iwo Jima veteran and docent at the NMMC, spends four days a week in the "Iwo Jima" portion of the museum and tells the story about the 46 days that were spent on that island. This time he was able to enjoy the museum with men who understand and recognize the moments that are displayed on those walls.

"I'm very happy that I was able to get here because I had some, short but very nice, conversations with some of the guys that were on Iwo with us," said Matthews. "There's a feeling there that I can't explain. I don't get to do that but once in a great while because we only have one anniversary a year and a lot of them can't come very often."

The inclement weather that preceded the day of the commemoration kept some veterans and guests from attending, but their absence didn't interfere with their recognition.

"Today we recognize those who served our nation during World War II on Iwo Jima and elsewhere in the Pacific and across Europe," said Glueck. "We recognize not only their accomplishments but also the indomitable spirit that was created for the generations to follow."

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