Sheppard honors Williams, Iwo Jima Vets

Sheppard Air Force Base

Oliver Jensen, a survivor and veteran of the Second World War, poses for a photo before heading into the Wellington Banquet Center Feb. 16, 2018, in Wichita Falls, Texas. Jensen was part of the Iwo Jima Survivors’ Reunion. Iwo Jima was one of the last battles of the Pacific Theater ending on March 26, 1945, japan would later formally sign their surrender that year aboard the USS Missouri on Sept. 2. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Students serve retirees and veterans during their visit to Sheppard Elementary School Feb. 16, 2018, at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Students were visited by Iwo Jima veterans and their families. The students wrote poems, performed a skit and served the veterans lunch to show their appreciation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Hershel “Woody” Williams, a retired marine from World War II and the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, shakes the hand of a young United States marine staff sergeant Feb. 16, 2018, in the Wellington Banquet Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Marines from the Marine Corps detachment based at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, came to show their support for all the veterans who came out for the Iwo Jima Survivors’ Reunion, which Williams was a part of and was also a key speaker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Marines from the Marine Corps detachment at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, presents the colors while onlookers watch Feb. 16, 2018, at the Wellington Banquet Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Hershel “Woody” Williams, saluting, is a retired marine flamethrower operator who fought in World War II in the Pacific Theater. Around his neck is the Medal of Honor, which he was presented after his actions in the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Hershel “Woody” Williams, back turned to photo, speaks to Airmen and Marines Feb. 16, 2018, in a 364th Training Squadron classroom at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Williams, a retired Marine Corps warrant officer, recounts his story of joining the military as well as his life on a farm, being rejected by the military at first, and meeting President Harry S. Truman when he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as a flamethrower operator during the Battle of Iwo Jima. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

From left to right, Oliver Jensen, Fiske Hanley and Larry Turner talk and joke during the annual Iwo Jima Survivors' Reunion Feb. 17, 2018, at the Wellington Banquet Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Hanley and Jensen are both survivors who fought in the battle, while Turner came to support the veterans. The annual reunion is regularly held in Wichita Falls and brings out local veterans and supporters for a fun two day event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Hershel “Woody” Williams, a retired Marine Corps warrant officer and the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, shoots a flamethrower as part of a demonstration for the annual Iwo Jima Survivors’ Reunion Feb. 17, 2018 at the Wellington Banquet Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Williams, who fought in World War II as a flamethrower operator, was given the chance to fire an authentic replica one more time. The demonstration was held in the parking lot with veterans, their families, volunteers and the fire department attentively watching. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

Hershel “Woody” Williams, a retired Marine Corps warrant officer and the last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, shows the Medal to current men and women serving the country Feb. 16, 2018 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. Williams told the younger military members of the day he earned the Medal. He said he is taking care of the Medal for the two men who died protecting him while he was doing his job on Iwo Jima. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base

A veteran and his family talk to one of the Marine reenactors after a flamethrower demonstration Feb. 17, 2018, at the Wellington Banquet Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. Reenactors, who are actually active duty military members themselves, put on a show for the veterans. Not only did they demonstrate the power of the flamethrower, an integral part of World War II, they also reenacted the famous raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

Sheppard Air Force Base
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A retired Marine Corps member stands up as reenactors raise the American flag Feb. 17, 2018, at the Wellington Center in Wichita Falls, Texas. The raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, was a significant event in World War II and was immortalized in the picture taken by Joe Rosenthal. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Pedro Tenorio)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

“When you go home, tell them of us, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.” – Patrick K. O’Donnell, "Into the Rising Sun: In Their Own Words, World War II’s Pacific Veterans Reveal the Heart of Combat"

More than 70 years ago, brave men went to war on two fronts for what they believed was right. They went out by the millions as defenders of freedom, avengers of the oppressed, the sword for those who couldn't swing it. They were warriors who loved their home and men who knew their chance of coming home was small.

About 70 years later, some of those men who survived World War II gathered together Feb. 16-17 for the annual Iwo Jima Survivors’ Reunion in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Tell Them of Us

The reunion, run by volunteers from the Disabled American Veterans association, focused on remembering those who gave so much to preserve freedom.

The event started with a welcome to Wichita Falls with speeches from Hershel "Woody" Williams, survivor of the Battle of Iwo Jima and last living Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, Brig. General Ronald E. Jolly, commander of the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and Col. Timothy Parker, commander of the Marine detachment at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

All three men gave speeches about the courage and valor shown by those who fought in WWII. Williams spoke of his role as the caretaker of the Medal of Honor for the men who died protecting him, Jolly spoke of how America should not and will not forget the sacrifices they made, and Parker spoke of carrying on their legacy.

The veterans then went to Sheppard Elementary School, where students showed their appreciation for the veterans by serving lunch to the elders, reciting poetry they made and putting on a show in the cafeteria.

The survivors were then given a tour of Sheppard Air Force Base and some Airmen, Marines and Soldiers in training were given the chance to a semi-private talk with Williams, who recounted the tales of the war and gave the young service members advice for their careers in the military.

The two-day event culminated with reenactments of the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima, flamethrower demonstrations, a fly over and a dinner.