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Thread: A Tale of Six Boys/ Iwo Jima
04-26-05, 03:10 PM #1
A Tale of Six Boys/ Iwo Jima
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 soldiers
>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 cheese head, too!
>Come gather around, Cheese heads, 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
> (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. When 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
> "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
> "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 neighbors 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 on 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 current War on Terrorism 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 and
>being free at someone else's sacrifice.
Great story - worth you time. Please pass along
04-27-05, 10:58 AM #2
Was wondering if anyone else had more information on a good story about them?
04-27-05, 11:21 AM #3
Great story. Anyone read "Flags of Our Fathers"?
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