Monday, February 22, 2010

Iwo Jima Anniversary Weekend in Review


Weekends like this past weekend, I wish I had a laptop so I could type out my thoughts during a break. By the time I got home at night I was so tired that it was all I could do to download the photos.

Fridays event was electric. You could feel the energy in the air. I haven't felt that kind of energy since the museum dedication. The oddity or irony of this celebration was that we were celebrating the anniversary of what experience of their lives.





One of the veterans stated it perfectly when he described the feeling of both Americans and Japanese on Iwo, “None of us wanted to be there. We were doing what our countries required us to do.”

Every veteran I spoke with pretty much said, “It was HELL!”

Was I expecting a different answer? What WAS I expecting? I don't know. Its not like they were playing in the super bowl or something.




I recently saw a video out of Afghanistan's battle for Marjah. Two Marines are crouching behind a wall. One Marine's rifle is at the ready as he scans the terrain. The other Marine is on hands and knees vomiting. It brought to mind an Iwo vet being interviewed by his family in the Iwo Gallery a couple years ago.

“Were you scared Dad?” his daughter asked.

“Oh, yes!” He exclaimed, “I was so scared, I didn't go to the bathroom for five days.”

All of the veterans I spoke with talked about having nightmares, symptoms that we call PTSD today, back then it was called battle fatigue. One corpsman told me that people shouldn't have to see those horrible things. If you weren't effected by what you saw and experienced, there was something wrong with you. Any normal human being would/should be upset by what they saw.

At the symposium on Saturday, Frank Caldwell, a company commander on Iwo Jima, shared a story of a Japanese soldier jumping out of hole charging them with a sword. A Zippo tank hit him with a flame. As the Japanese soldier charged, he lost his helmet. Caldwell's Gunny picked up the helmet and tucked inside was a photo of the man they had just killed with his wife and six children. “My Gunny broke down and cried.”


The Navajo code talkers gifted us with a special serenade, the Marine Corps Hymn sung in Navajo. They made a request of the veterans and their families to support the building of a Navajo Code Talker museum. I'll post more on that later.

General Mattis addressed the veterans with a status of the Marine Corps today and the current fight in Afghanistan. While I have this all on video I will not post any of it. As you know Mattis speaks his mind. During the question session, someone asked him about Iran. Before he answered, he looked at me and asked if there was any Press in the room. I almost responded “Milblogger”. I understood his question to mean what he was saying in the room was meant to be kept within the family. I will respect that.

Colonel Dick Camp gave a great overview on the Naval Operations leading up to the Battle. I will be preparing a blog entry on that for all of the history nuts out there.

A special treat this year was the presentation made by Japan's military attache assigned to the embassy in DC. H spoke about the Japanese preparations leading up to the battle, specifically the tunnel system.

The gala event on Saturday was spectacular. I think General Amos could take a stab at stand-up comedy when he retires. He was an engaging speaker with a motivational message. It was a great evening. A once in a lifetime experience.



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