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thedrifter
09-12-03, 04:32 PM
Iwo Jima Memorial

Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI, where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima Memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave marines raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II.

Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, "Where are you guys from?"

I told him that we were from Wisconsin. "Hey, I'm a cheesehead, too! Come gather around, Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."

(James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who has since passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington,D.C., but it is quite another to get the kind of insight! we received that night.)

When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night.)

"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called "Flags of Our Fathers" which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me.

"Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called "War." But it didn't turn out to be a game.

Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old.(He pointed to the statue) "You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph ... a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

"The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already 24. W hen Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.'

"The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero.' He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?' So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of 32 ... ten years after this picture was taken.

"The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop, Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.'Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19.

When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbor's lived a quarter of a mile away.

"The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press.

"You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

"When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, 'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.'

"So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag! sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.

We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice. Let us never forget from the revolutionary War to the Gulf War and all the wars in-between that sacrifice was made for our freedom.

Remember to pray praises for this great country of ours and also pray for those still in murderous unrest around the world. STOP and thank God for being alive at someone else's sacrifice.

God Bless.

Roy Cruse


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"Support Our Soldiers"
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United We Stand
God Bless America
*****
Were it not for the brave,
there would be no Land of the Free!

Remember our POW/MIA's
I'll never forget!


Sempers,

Roger
:marine:

Lock-n-Load
09-12-03, 05:24 PM
:marine: I attended in 1995 in Wash,DC ...the official welcome home national tribute to all Korean War Vets...Marine Colonel Weidhahn got us a temendous reduction at the Mayflower Hotel for the Hdqtrs of the 1st Marine Division Assoc members...1,000 took the great offer while approx 3,000 others booked/up at area hotels closeby...the Gold Bus served as Motor Transport...we had an hour to kill one hot/sticky July day, so the driver gave us a bus/tour before Clinton inaugurated festivities to the brand new Korean War Memorial...the bus driver stopped and gave us 15 mins to amble over to the Iwo Jima Memorial which was a first to the crowd...the closer I got to this USMC Monument...I was amazed at its size upclose...this was an impromptu and profound moment in my life...as I slowly walked around it and gazed upward...I was awe struck, it seemed each Iwo Marine came to life with perfect depiction of combat dungaress, the stress/strain of combat on their faces...all the 782 gear perfectly detailed, the M-1, the helmet covers, the leggins, web/gear, I say again, in perfect detail...it looked real life...tears welled up in my eyes and dripped to the deck...whomever the sculptor was..KNEW...combat Marines of the Fleet Marine Force...to me, this edifice is sacred to every Marine [past-present-future]...combat defines a US Marine and this Iwo Jima Memorial impressed me [unashamedly] like no other...I felt akin of those FMF Marines...combat begets combat...the acid test of a US Marine...next August [2004] the 1st Marine Div Assoc will muster on the ridge and march by Regiments behind the 1st Marine Division Band ...to the Iwo Jima Memorial for a solemn memorial service...I guarantee you, I will see the silent tears of others around me, again!! Semper Fidelis :marine: