[February 23, 2016] Not long ago as children we once listened to the stories of World War II veterans. We “played army” with our friends and spent time daydreaming about how we would help America win its battles. No longer do we talk with WWII veterans as nearly all have passed away. As a child I was lucky to meet some hometown vets who were witness to the U.S. flag being raised at Iwo Jima and wow did they have some hair-raising stories to tell.
Now as a military veteran I have a much better perspective on the notion of a battlefield and the hardships of combat. What I don’t have however is a feel for how difficult it was at the various battlefields fighting the Axis powers, especially the Japanese and Germans. Even with three years under my belt in combat, nothing could compare to those who fought inch by inch to take the volcanic island of Iwo Jima. This small island was critical for the Allied effort to take the airfields located on there in preparation for the bombing of the home island of Japan.
Even when I’ve spoken with Japanese WWII veterans does it seem like such ferocity on that island could have occurred; given its distant past. Like a nightmare, the heroics of the men who stormed the island and the marines, soldiers, and sailors who fought there, will be remembered but only as a faded memory. The fading of the memories is unfortunate for it is those that help us as a society better understand what it takes to defend freedom.
Today we take freedom and liberty for granted. We distrust people who show a strong, fighting spirit. Those that show strength are “aggressors” who would harm us mentally or oppress us in some way. Such is the new generation of our young. The young men of the late 1930s were also described with similar attributes; weak minded, physically understrength, and tending toward socialist views. So maybe the clock is returning to the same time on its face.
The U.S. flag was raised on the small island of Iwo Jima 71 years ago today. It took enormous bravery, will, strength, and sacrifice to make it happen; more than most of us can understand. Let us not forget those who fought for our freedoms.
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