March 31, 2014 --
Veterans, active duty, reservists, and friends of service members gathered at Leavenworth National Cemetery March 14, to commemorate the 69th anniversary of battles fought on Iwo Jima.
Jerry Ingram, president chapter 39, 4th Marine Division association of World War II, and the Marine Corps League hosted the event for the 11th consecutive year, which had to be postponed one month this year due to inclement weather.
“We’re here to celebrate our victories as Marines, but also to remember those who’ve fought with us,” Ingram said. “Thank you for honoring our fallen friends with us at our ceremony, Semper Fidelis.”
Guest speaker for the event, Lt. Col. Mitchell Hoines, Deputy Director of the Marine Corps detachment on Fort Leavenworth explained how and why service members almost seven decades later show respect for their brothers and sisters.
“Today we celebrate a great, hard-fought victory, we celebrate the living and the dead,” Hoines said. “We honor those who’ve gone before us and those who are here today.”
The privately-funded memorial was built by Ingram’s group 12 years ago and members from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion Riders, Marine Detachment of Ft. Leavenworth and the Marine Corps League have been keeping the ceremony going for more than a decade now.
“Those organizations have helped us keep the remainder of our fallen heroes and brothers going over the years,” Ingram said. “Our Iwo Jima vets in Leavenworth have dwindled down to three proud Marines: Sgt. Dick Graff, Pfc. Herb Fickel and me, Staff Sgt. Jerry Ingram.”
During the ceremony, attendees were urged to walk up to the memorial and lay a flower over it for a brother or sister in arms who was killed in action over the course of American history.
Among those who paid their respects were former corpsmen, high-ranking officers, airmen, Marines and the families of service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
The two-mile wide by four-mile long volcanic island of Iwo Jima 660 miles south of Tokyo, was occupied by 70,000 Marines and 18,000 Japanese forces who battled for 36 days.
Once captured, the island served as an emergency landing zone for more than 2,200 B-29 bombers.
Five days into the battle on Feb. 23, 1945, the infamous photograph of the flag raising took place.
The battle serves as a reminder of one of the bloodiest battles in Marines Corps history claiming the lives of 7,000 Marines and wounding 20,000 others.