IWO JIMA SURVIVORS REUNION
One Generation Recounts History While Another Soaks It All In
The Battle of Iwo Jima took place 74 years ago. Yet today her vivid memories still reside in the minds of the men who engaged in that conflict. Each year a reunion takes place in Wichita Falls where these men gather with grateful public visitors. Oh! The things these men have seen! Oh! The things they endured! History comes to life at this reunion!
As a matter of fact, their accounts of that month in 1945 cannot be found in a schoolroom text book. No. They can only be collected as they pass through the memory and across the lips of the brave men who lived it.
Understandably, some of these memories cannot be described with words. They are simply expressed as they escape the eyes and travel down the cheek. Brushed away by shaking hands. Not shaking with age. No. Shaking with heartache inexplicable.
As the scents of coffee and pastries waft through the room, this visiting begins. The learning begins. The men of Operation Detachment, as the invasion was named, begin painting for us pictures of a war on an island in the Pacific far, far away.
Of course the chairs pull in close. Everyone is listening intently. Some leaning forward in their chairs, elbows on their knees. No interruption here. These men have everybody’s undivided attention.
Including that of middle school student Hunter. The son of a Marine Corps recruiter was sitting still absorbing the stories. And the emotions of those telling the stories. He could have been at home playing video games. Or riding through the neighborhood on his bike. Instead he was curled up in a chair hanging on every last word detailing those days on a Japanese island decades ago.
Then as lunchtime approaches the only hunger in the room is that for more stories. Questions like “Tell me more…”, “What did you do next?..”, “Then what happened?” being asked by young and old alike. The answers from these men reach deep inside each listener and grip their souls.
Suddenly, the sound of paper rustling invades the room. Everyone gathers at a table where a map of that Japanese island has been laid. One by one the men place push pins on the locations where they landed on the beaches.
Indeed a day that will live in the memories of all in attendance. Some of our nation’s Heroes sharing stories of events which they have carried for decades.