Friday I picked up a book with an interesting title and jacket. Little did I know it would keep me cativated all weekend. Every minute I had was spent with this book in my hand. I couldn't put it down. What I thought would be a novel turned into the account of the battle for Iwo Jima and the 6 men who raised the flag on Mt. Suribachi. Over the years this photo has signified courage and valour, but to the men who raised it, it was a few moments out of their life and of no importance. They all felt the real hero's were those who died on that island not themselves. We've all seen the famous photo, the memorial in Washington DC with it's inscription "Uncommon Valor, was a Common Virture" but yet we heard nothing of the lives of the 6 young men, 5 Marines and 1 Navy Corpsman who are in this photograph.
We've probably all heard "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" or seen the movies portraying the battle for Iwo Jima or studied WWII in our history classes but we've never read about these 6 young men and how being labeled as hero's affected their lives. We've never looked through their eyes and saw the horrors of war or saw how insignificant they thought that few minutes were.
Little did the son of one of the flag raisers know until after his father had died that he had been awarded the Navy Cross for valor above and beyond until he found in his office several boxes of papers relating to that time in his life when he went to war. His father was a very private man, never spoke of his time on Iwo Jima, never felt he was a hero and only lent a hand during the raising of the flag so captured in the famous photograph. After his death, the author spent years interviewing fellow Marines and family of those 5 other men. I feel this book is a tribute not only to those flag raisers but all the Marines who never came back.
I'm not ashamed to say I shed tears as well as chuckled as I was reading this book. So many lives lost to give us our freedom we have today. So much hoopla over a photograph snaped in 1/400th of a sec, a second raising of the flag over Mt Seribachi, a moment that was insignificant in the lives of 6 young men which labeled them hero's not for what they had experienced on Iwo Jima but because they happened to be there at that moment when the photograph was taken.
Iwo Jima was hard fought, hard won, many Marines lost their lives there. In the words of John Bradley, they are the hero's.