February 22, 2009
Letter highlights Iwo Jima reunion

Bruce Brown

Every year, the numbers shrink. But every year there's the chance for a lost treasure to be discovered.

The Iwo Jima Veterans Reunion, which wrapped up last night at the Hilton Inn and Towers, drew fewer than 70 veterans this year - a substantial drop-off from the 600-plus who were able to attend in 2001.

It's a mark of the progression of time, wavering health for some and economic impact for others, but those on hand got their usual dose of Cajun hospitality once again.

This year's hidden treasure was produced by Rebecca Smith, who attended the gathering in hopes of finding a U.S. Marine who might have known her father, Lou Quebedeaux.

Quebedeaux, a Crowley product who died in 1985, wrote a letter home to his wife on the night before he and other 3rd Division Marines hit the beaches at Iwo Jima in 1945.

Smith's sons Brad and David included the letter in a display honoring their grandfather that was part of the convention's collection this year. More than one Marine was brought to tears by the letter, which captured the anxiety for the task ahead, the rolling ship and the love for those at home.

"Some years ago, there was a group picture in Parade magazine of Dad and others on Mount Suribachi, after the famous flag-raising," Smith said. "The picture was by Joe Rosenthal, who had taken the flag-raising picture. I called him in California and we talked for a half hour. He was very nice, very humble.

"We were hoping to find someone here who knew my father."

Smith was unsuccessful in that search, but the letter touched the hearts of those who attended.

Quebedeaux may not have known those on hand, but they knew exactly what he went through 64 years ago.