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While focusing on the challenges of the present and future, the Marine Corps hasn't lost sight of its past

 U.S. Marines of the
28th Regiment,
5th Division, raise
the American flag atop Mount Suribachi,
Iwo Jima, Japan,
on Feb. 23, 1945.
The dwindling group
of American survivors
of the battle gathered recently, 60 years later, to commemorate
Iwo Jima at reunions around the country.

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Date published: 3/2/2005


THE STAGE at the Little Hall Theater on Quantico Marine Corps Base is far removed from the black volcanic sand of Iwo Jima.

And the brisk wind off the Potomac on a chilly February morning is the polar opposite of the scorching heat that greeted Marines landing under fire on that Pacific island in 1945.

But in the same spirit that those World War II Marines responded to the challenge, so did the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation last month when it staged a re-enactment of the famous flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi.

In front of an audience that included more than 100 Iwo Jima veterans, six men in World War II uniforms planted an American flag on the Little Hall stage to re-create the image captured by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Joe Rosenthal of The Associated Press.

Despite the curtains and spotlights, the re-enactment was both moving and symbolic--especially in today's world where young Marines are under fire almost daily in another foreign land. It also represented the highlight of the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima commemoration.

Equally touching were the standing ovations, the handshakes and the sincere thank-yous that were extended to the Iwo Jima veterans by both uniformed Marines and guests at the gathering.

If there is one thing Marines do as well as they fight, it is to honor and respect the heroism of the members of the Corps who have preceded them.

I believe more than any other branch of the U.S. military, the Marines cherish their history. That came through loud and clear from our Marine hosts during a bus tour of Quantico sponsored by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce that coincided with the Iwo Jima anniversary.

And certainly, that battle ranks as a defining moment in the culture of the Corps.

A tiny dot on the map about 735 miles from Japan, Iwo Jima in 1945 became vital to America's war effort in the Pacific as a way station for B-29 bombing raids on the Japanese home islands being conducted by the Air Force.

Securing Iwo Jima took 36 days and cost the Marines more than 6,000 lives and an additional 18,000 wounded or missing.

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