Results 1 to 1 of 1
03-23-09, 05:40 AM #1
Black sand from Iwo Jima bonds Coastie, Marine
Kelly's Korner: Black sand from Iwo Jima bonds Coastie, Marine
- Jed Burkhart joined the U.S. Coast Guard after high school.
He flew and sailed around the world, visiting exotic ports of call in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.
All of those experiences dance fondly in his memory when he recalls his four years and four months as a Coastie.
But, like many veterans, his service on Iwo Jima haunts him most.
"There isn't an exposed rock on that island that isn't pockmarked with bullets or shrapnel," Burkhart said. "I remember walking along the invasion beach and picking up handfuls of .30-06 cartridges."
The Marines and Coast Guard are the only two branches of the military with a Latin motto. For the Marines it is Semper fidelis or always faithful. For the Coasties it is Semper paratus, always prepared.
Almost 8,000 Marines lost their lives Feb. 19, 1945, during the invasion of the Japanese stronghold.
Coasties drove the Higgins boats that delivered the Marines to the beaches.
The shells carried ashore by U.S. Marines still litter the beach and stand out from the black volcanic cinders that pass for sand on the 8-square-mile island.
One day, while exploring the island, he found the remains of four Japanese soldiers partially buried in one of the caves that honeycomb the island.
"Before I left I scooped up some of the black sand from the invasion beach and kept it in a vial," Burkhart said.
What's really remarkable about finding the bullets, bodies of soldiers and other evidence of the deadly battle is that Burkhart was on Iwo Jima from August 1976 to July 1977.
To this day, he has a deep respect for the price paid by the Marines on Iwo Jima.
It was more than 30 years after the invasion and yet the war still was all around him and the 20 other Coast Guardsmen who manned a Long Range Aid to Navigation, or LORAN, station there.
Years later, Burkhart learned that a friend's father, Marine Sgt. Bill McElwee, was an Iwo Jima veteran.
"I heard he was sick and I thought he might enjoy some of my pictures and the vial of sand," Burkhart said. "He died shortly after that and they buried the him with the sand."
Somehow, more than 30 years after Burkhart left Iwo Jima and more than 60 years after McElwee stormed ashore with the 27th Marines, an aging Coastie helped prepare a faithful old Marine for the end.
Semper paratus. Semper fidelis.
In Kelly's Korner, Dan Kelly writes about the people and personalities that make Berks County special. Contact him at 610-371-5040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY LATE HUSBAND, SSgt Roger A. Alfano, USMC
ONE PROUD MARINE
Once a Marine...Always a Marine
Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)