Special ceremony to note 68th anniversary of Battle of Iwo Jima
The 68th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima will be recognized today Veterans Memorial in Cape Coral.
Hosted by the PFC Paul E. Ison Marine Corps League Detachment 60, in partnership with the city of Cape Coral, the event will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the pavilion at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve.
The American flag was raised on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.
“This year, we’re doing it a little differently,” George Colom, former commandant of the PFC Paul E. Ison detachment, said of the ceremony.
The program typically has involved retired military officers, politicians and veterans.
“The theme of this is the future talking to the past,” he said. “And to see what has the past taught us, taught the kids, of this generation.”
Colom explained that the new commandant is a teacher at Cape Coral High School, and that he got the school’s JROTC to patriciate in the ceremony. It will have its color guard in attendance, as well as a brass group to perform.
The event’s main speaker is a Cape High senior and JROTC member.
“They have a fife and drum, also,” he added.
The Sons of the American Revolution and the VFW Post 8364 honor guard will be in attendance. There will be the playing of “taps” and a wreath laying.
Also, the Iwo Jima survivors present at the ceremony will be honored.
“We had 19 survivors,” Colom said of last year’s event. “This year, we may have less – we may have more.”
“Most of them are local,” he added. “Some come from other areas.”
Last year’s total turnout was estimated at more than 200.
Attendees are encouraged to bring folding chairs.
“We have limited seating, and we want to save that for the veterans and handicapped people,” Colom said.
Mayor John Sullivan encouraged the public to attend.
“It’s extremely important that we remember what they’ve done for this country. Many of those Marines gave their lives at Iwo Jima,” he said.
According to Sullivan, the Marine causalities alone totaled 23,157, of which 5,885 were killed. The Navy causalities were 2,798 – 881 were deaths.
“We need to honor these folks for the tremendous sacrifice they made,” he said.
Colom noted that the total count for all U.S. branches was higher.
“The overall causalities were around 28,500,” he said.
Sullivan pointed out that the location of Iwo Jima was key in the war.
“Iwo Jima was important because it was used as a landing strip for planes that were coming back that were damaged after bombing Tokyo and other targets,” he said.
More than 24,000 airmen reportedly landed on the island.
“Had we not taken Iwo Jima, all of those would have been forced to ditch or go into the ocean,” Sullivan said.
Following Saturday’s ceremony, the Iwo Jima survivors and veterans are invited to a luncheon at the Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation.
“We’ll have lunch and a small celebration celebrating the anniversary of the Iwo Jima statue,” Ralph Santillo, the president of the foundation, said.
He added that it is also to celebrate the World War II veterans.
“They’re precious to us, and we’re losing them very quickly,” Santillo said.
Last year, the foundation hosted the luncheon at a local VFW.
“Now, we’ve got the facility to have it in our own place,” he said.
They expect about 50 to 60 people; the luncheon is open to the public.
“We invite anyone that wants to come and celebrate,” Santillo said.
“It’s a special occasion and a special group,” he added.
The foundation oversees the Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library and it is currently building an Iwo Jima display. Part of the display is up.
Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is at the end of Southeast 23rd Terrace.
The Invest in America’s Veterans Foundation is at 4820 Leonard St.