FORT SILL, Okla. - Veterans of the battle of Iwo Jima participated in a reunion hosted by the Marine Artillery Detachment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Feb. 12, 2015.
The Iwo Jima Battle Survivors and Family Association held their final reunion over three days, and were invited to attend special festivities by the Marines of the detachment.
Col. Wayne Harrison, commanding officer of the Marine Artillery Detachment at Fort Sill, Okla., shakes the hands of Iwo Jima veterans at the conclusion of a ceremony held to honor them and their service on Feb. 12, 2015. The Marine Artillery Detachment performed a ceremony, provided a barbecue lunch and socialized with the Marines. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath)
Seventy years ago, three Marine divisions landed on the volcanic island Iwo To, which was defended by about 23,000 Japanese, who fortified themselves in extensive tunnel systems, caves and hideaways throughout the island.
After a month of fighting, the Marines [MR2] 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 Corpsmen, 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. [MR3]
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 cannoneer. “I can't believe the things they had to go through at our age.”
Private Miguel Ramirez, a Marine awaiting training to become a field artillery cannonier, presents a piece of cake to a veteran of Iwo Jima during a ceremony performed by the Marines of the Marine Artillery Detachment at Fort Sill, Okla., Feb. 12, 2015. The Marine Artillery Detachment performed a ceremony to honor the veterans and provided a barbecue meal afterward. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Karnath)
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.”
By U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Melissa Karnath
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