Iwo Jima statue to be rededicated today
The Iwo Jima statue at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve will be rededicated today as part of a ceremony to commemorate the flag raising in 1945.
The official rededication ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the veterans memorial at the preserve, located at the end of Southeast 23rd Terrace. The public is invited to attend, and attendees are encouraged to bring chairs.
Connie Barron, the spokeswoman for the city, said the ceremony is a joint effort with the several groups that took part in the restoration project.
“It is the official rededication,” she said. “This one is actually rededicating the statue near the anniversary of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima.”
Marine Corps League Commandant George Colom, the historian for the restoration project, explained that Thursday – Feb. 23 – marked the 67th anniversary of the flag raising on the volcanic Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima.
Since at least 1997, the Marine Corps League has been hosting an annual ceremony in Cape Coral commemorating the day. They decided to combine the yearly event with the rededication of the recently completed statue rejuvenation.
Colom said the ceremony means a little more this year because of it.
“It does in the sense that we have a monument that’s in really nice shape,” he said. “It’s restored. It’s in tiptop condition.”
The keynote speaker for the rededication is retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Dennis M. McCathy, who is the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. A number of local and state dignitaries will be attending.
Pfc. Hector Cafferata, a Medal of Honor recipient, is a special guest.
The ceremony includes pipes and drums, a bugler, an aviation flyover by three Lee County helicopters, a Marine Corps color guard and a rifle detail.
Colom added that dozens of invitations were sent to Iwo Jima survivors.
“For some of them, this is probably the last time they’ll be here,” he said.
The restoration involved restoring the outside of the statue, such as the details of the soldiers’ hands, as well as the inside foundation of the piece. DJ Wilkins was the sculptor; Don Meek volunteered as the project engineer.
“I’m going to be real happy that this is all finally complete, and that we’re finally coming to completion on the whole project in general,” Meek said.
He called the restoration a success and said it went well.
“I wasn’t afraid of the project. I didn’t have any disappointments,” Meek said, adding that the statue was a lot worse than believed. “It was a good thing we did it when we did because it would have just exhibited further deterioration.”
“It’s going to be standing there for a long time to come,” he added.
According to Barron, the statue is one of three official originals of its size that were created by Felix de Weldon. De Weldon is better known for his larger Iwo Jima bronze memorial in Arlington, Va.
“To the city of Cape Coral, that statue (the Cape Coral one) stands as a memorial and an honor to all of our men and women who have fought and continue to fight for the freedoms that us Americans enjoy,” she said. “I think that it demonstrates Cape Coral’s commitment to our veterans.”
The initial push to restore the crumbling degrading piece, which had large chucks of it being held together by bungee cords, came from the family and friends of Craig T. Fuller, who served in the Marine Corps for eight years.
On April 25, 2010, Fuller, 33, was ambushed and killed in Afghanistan in a roadside attack. He had served there overseas before going back to work as a private contractor. Fuller had about five years of work in before he died.
According to his friends and family, Fuller fell in love with the Iwo Jima monument when he was training at boot camp at Parris Island. When he saw the condition of the Cape statue, he wanted to make sure it was restored.
After Fuller’s death, they decided to do something about it. A fund in his name was established with the help of the Cape Coral Community Foundation and $60,000 was raised. The city later contributed an additional $43,000.
The city will oversee the maintenance of the statue into the future.