Marines Honor Iwo Jima Survivors On 70th Anniversary

Marines Honor Iwo Jima Survivors On 70th Anniversary

Marines from the Marine Artillery Detachment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma gather around Marine veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams after a ceremony held to honor Iwo Jima veterans and their service. Williams is the last surviving veteran who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle for Iwo Jima. Photo by Sgt Melissa Karnanth.

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb 13  2015) -- Veterans of the battle of Iwo Jima participated in a reunion hosted by the Marine Artillery Detachment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, February 12, 2015.

The Iwo Jima Battle Survivors and Family Association held their final reunion over three days, and where invited to attend special festivities by the Marines of the detachment.

Seventy years ago, three Marine divisions landed on the volcanic island Iwo To, which was defended by about 23 thousand Japanese, who fortified themselves in extensive tunnel systems, caves and hideaways throughout the island.

After a month of fighting, the Marines were victorious. However, the cost of victory was high with the United States suffering 6,821 dead and 19, 217 wounded . The battle etched in the minds of Americans by the iconic photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal of the American flag being raised on the Mount Suribachi.

"This is the last chance some of these veterans may have to spend time with young Marines," Col Wayne Harrison, commanding officer of the Marine Artillery Detachment, said. "We wanted to provide them with a social gathering and a fun time."

The Iwo Jima Marines and sailors, accompanied by their families, arrived from Wichita Falls, Texas by bus and were escorted to front row seats to watch a ceremony held in their honor commemorating the 70th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima. The ceremony began with an invocation, the presentation of the colors and the playing of the national anthem.

The ceremony continued with a cake cutting with pieces of cake being individually delivered to each Iwo Jima veteran.

"I felt really honored to be apart of this ceremony with the veterans," said Pvt Miguel Ramirez, a Marine who helped deliver pieces of cake to the veterans.

Harrison delivered his remarks to the young Marines training to become Marine Artillerymen the veterans of Iwo Jima.  

The ceremony concluded with the veterans standing at attention with Harrison during the playing of Anchors Aweigh and the Marines Hymn.

"The ceremony was beautiful," said James Krodel, a Marine veteran of Guam and Iwo Jima, of Quitman, Texas. "I really appreciated it."

Following the ceremony the veterans spent time with the Marines of the detachment and enjoyed a barbecue lunch together.

"The veterans joke and act young when they are around us," said Ramirez, a 19-year-old Marine awaiting training to become a field artillery cannonier. "I can't believe the things they had to go through at our age."

The Iwo Jima veterans then had the opportunity to visit the grave of Geronimo, who was a Bedonkohe Apache leader of the Chiricahua Apache and the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum.

After their tours, the Iwo Jima veterans departed for their hotel in Wichita Falls, Texas.

"The battle of Iwo Jima gave us our legacy," said Harrison. "Legacy that makes our Marines today proud of what you gentlemen did on that island 70 years ago." is the official website of the United States Marine Corps and is maintained by the Marine Corps' Division of Public Affairs.