The Young Marines on Iwo Jima - Uncommon Valor: The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima
Thursday, April 30, 2020
 

(From left) U.S. Marine Lt. Gen. David H. Berger, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Norman Smith, and members of the Young Marines approach an Iwo Jima memorial to participate in a wreath-laying presentation as part of the 72nd Reunion of Honor ceremony, March 25, 2017. This event presented the opportunity for the U.S. and Japanese people to mutually remember and honor thousands of service members who fought and died on the hallowed grounds of Iwo Jima. U.S. MARINE CORPS PHOTO BY LANCE CPL. BROOKE DEITERSThirty-six days, 70,000 U.S servicemen, 7,000 lives lost, and 26,000 wounded people made Iwo Jima one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater during World War II.

The Young Marines program has created an environment in which Young Marines across the nation have been able to see firsthand the island where this battle took place. In an overwhelming one-day trip, Iwo Jima left me with a respect and knowledge of the struggle those men faced 75 years ago.

Every year, 10 Young Marines and an Adult Volunteer are selected to attend the Iwo Jima remembrance ceremony on the Island: six Young Marines take this trip because they each have won the title of Young Marine of the Year (each winner representing one of our six divisions); two of our Young Marines are the Jimmy Trimble scholarship winners; and the last two are the national executive director’s pick and the current National Young Marine of the Year. The Adult Volunteer of the Year is also honored with this trip.

The Young Marines have had the honor of engaging in this remembrance trip since 2004. Through these years, youth and adults alike have gained unique experiences that impacted each differently and deeply.

“While the experience of traveling to Guam and Iwo Jima was truly an amazing journey, what made this trip unparalleled to any other was the opportunity to experience it with the veterans who lived through those battles,” said Jason Asbill, National Young Marine of the Year 2003-2004. “To hear the stories firsthand was humbling. To trek across the island unhindered by enemy forces was breathtaking (both literally and figuratively). To see the camaraderie of the veterans, not only among allies but former foes as well, was inspiring.”

“Visiting the Island of Iwo Jima was one of the quietest experiences of my life,” said Angel Orozco, the National Young Marine of the Year 2017-2018. “No one lives there, and no one was speaking when we were there. I was able to reflect deeply on not only the horrors of the battle but on how what happened on that small island changed the course of the war and the world. It was beyond humbling.”

The clarity of the indescribable event, known as the Battle of Iwo Jima, has been imparted on all who walk in the shadowy boot prints of the men – boys, really – who fought for freedom.

The greatest impact of this experience is interacting with the veterans who fought on this island. When asked about her experience with a particular veteran on the trip, the 2019-2020 Division 2 Young Marine of the Year, YM/Sgt. Maj. Macie Ross, said, “Mr. Gil is an amazing man with an incredible life. His life stories are something I will always remember, and I will cherish the week I had the opportunity to escort him. Although I only knew him for a week, he taught me that no matter what you are going through, you can always look on the bright side.

“He also taught me that you can’t give up when one thing doesn’t go your way. You have to be resilient in everything you do. Just because one thing knocks you down, it doesn’t mean you have to stay down. Get back up and give it everything you’ve got.”

Escorting the veterans around Guam and Iwo Jima gives Young Marines the opportunity to hear their stories firsthand and live history through their eyes. Read More >>

April 29, 2020
By YM/SgtMaj Megan Lynch, National Young Marine of the Year 2019-2020
Uncommon Valor: The 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima Magazine

 


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