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.
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.