75 Years later: Cape to mark Iwo Jima anniversary
One of the most infamous battles that resulted in one of the most iconic images of the World War II era marks its 75th anniversary this week and will be remembered at Cape Coral’s most prolific veteran honor area.
The 75th Iwo Jima Anniversary Ceremony takes place this Sunday at Eco Park in Cape Coral under the Veterans Memorial Pavilion beginning at 10 a.m. presented by the PFC Paul E. Ison Detachment 60 Marine Corps League.
The Battle of Iwo Jima spanned from Feb. 19 – March 26 of 1945 where the United States Marine Corps and Navy eventually captured the island of Iwo Jima — after thousands of casualties — from the Imperial Japanese Army. The battle is said to have involved some of the most fierce and bloody battles of the Pacific War of World War II.
Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured his iconic photo of five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the United States flag atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945. That image was transformed into a statue thanks to sculptor Felix de Weldon and sits in Arlington, Virginia, dedicated in 1954.
The Veteran’s Memorial at Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, which was constructed in 1997, features just one of three original, one-third-scale models, by sculptor Felix de Weldon, of the Marine Corps War Memorial Iwo Jima statues, the two others being in Liberty, Virginia and Parris Island, South Carolina.
The Veterans Midpoint Memorial Charitable Trust, Inc., which oversees the maintenance and upkeep of the area and its monuments, as well as helps military organizations memorialize their comrades, is run by Cape residents Gary and Judy Bowler.
“The Veterans Midpoint Memorial Charitable Trust, Inc. is very proud to oversee the great gift of the Iwo Jima Statue and the many other memorials and monuments in our Veterans Area,” the Bowlers said in a joint statement. “The Iwo Jima Statue is over fifty years old and has become a historic landmark for both our residents and visitors.”
The 20-foot statue was originally at the Rose Garden in 1965, commissioned by community founders, Jack and Leonard Rosen, before being moved to North First Bank in 1980. In 1997, it moved to its current location along the then-newly constructed Midpoint Memorial Bridge. It was also restored in 2011.
“We are so lucky to have our monument,” the Bowlers said.
The day is always a special one for those who attend.
“It is important to remember all veterans who served so selflessly and protected our great democracy and freedoms,” the Bowlers said. “Each and every young man and/or woman who puts their young lives on hold, to protect this nation to maintain our freedoms should be thanked and honored. Our nation would not be what it is without the service of our military. We should not forget the legacy they have placed in our hands to protect for generations to come.”
As the “Greatest Generation” — or World War II era veterans — are becoming scarce, it is now more important than ever to ensure they are remembered for the ultimate and brave sacrifices made.
“Our World War II veterans are slowly passing and we should give them the honor they deserve,” the Bowlers said.
There will be two Iwo Jima survivors in attendance, along with World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans at the remembrance Sunday morning.
Paul E. Ison, for which the Marine Corps Detachment in the county is named, crossed “Death Valley” on Okinawa on May 10, 1945. Ison enlisted at the age of 28 despite being married with four children as restrictions eased while the war raged. “Death Valley” was seen as a near death wish for soldiers, and Ison and his comrades crossed three times — all of them surviving. Ison retired to Fort Myers in 1981 and remained active in the Marine Corps League and other local military groups until his death.
“Paul will be featured in our 75th Anniversary Program book published by the Breeze Newspapers that will be distributed to all who attend the ceremony while they last,” the Bowlers said.
The ceremony will involve a proclamation, invocation, guest speakers, a benediction, rifle salute, Taps and more.
“This event has been presented by the Marine Corps League for our citizens of Lee County annually, and being the 75th Anniversary makes this so much more special,” the Bowlers said. “Bring your family and friends to give thanks and show all those who serve our support during this patriotic gathering. There will be music, food, a special ceremony with color guards and a social hour to follow. Please come and support us.”
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