By Peter Bradrick
Posted: June 7, 2005
Coarse black sand showered down on him from a nearby mortar blast as he jumped into a shell hole, dragging his fallen comrade. They hadnt known each other for long, but they shared a mission and a fierce loyalty to their division and to the Marines. They had fought up the beaches together under withering enemy fire and survived more than they ever thought humanly possible.
He could hear the muffled screams of a Japanese soldier as a pillbox was burnt out not one hundred yards away. Overhead, the air whistled with flying bullets. Shaking from over-exertion, he fingered his Colt .45 and lifted a sweat-streaked face prematurely creased from the strain of war over the edge of the shell hole to scan the melee for the hidden enemy. His movement caught the keen eye of a Japanese sniper, and, with a crack hardly decipherable through the cacophony, he fell beside his partner never again to squeeze the trigger of his trusty .45. Never again to see his beloved bride-to-be, eagerly awaiting his return. Never again to kiss the dear face of his mother, who was home listening anxiously to every radio broadcast for a word about her boy. Never again to feel the strong arms of the father that taught him what it was to be a man. Another soldier fell in the battle for Iwo Jima. Will he be forgotten?
They came here to defend their homeland. In February and March of 1945, over seventy thousand of the bravest soldiers in the world landed on the beaches of Iwo Jima for the defining battle of the Pacific during World War II, one of the bloodiest battles in history. They werent here because they liked war. They were here because it was their duty. There were fighting for their wives and children. Men that were defined by honor, mission, and bravery. Almost a third of them wouldnt walk off the island. Many were carried off in stretchers. Many were buried there.
Four days after landing on the island, the strategic position of Mt. Suribachi was secured, and a small band of Marines raised the first American flag on its summit. The whole island watched. All down the beaches, sweat-soaked, blood-spattered, battle-weary American soldiers looked up and were reminded what they were fighting for. The homes and families, mothers and sisters, wives and children, represented in that flag as it whipped in the sea breezed sent a shockwave of inspiration down the war-wracked beach. Defeat wasnt an option. Victory was assured.
Sixty years later, on March 12, 2005, I stood on the top of Mt. Suribachi, overlooking the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima. I too unfurled a flag from the summit, this one not for the Marines in the trenches below, but for my unborn children in memory of the men that had been inspired by that first flag raising sixty years before. I stood with a heart throbbing with passion and thankfulness thankfulness for the unbelievable sacrifice and bravery of the men that fought and died here, and passion to live my life the same way. As I stood there holding that flag to the ocean wind, I cried out to God for my sons, the next generation of soldiers. I prayed that God would raise them up to be bold, fearless men of God with the same mettle and resolve as the men that died where I stood. That they would fight the battles for truth and righteousness with the same fearless tenacity as the soldiers of Iwo Jima fought the Japanese. And that this flag would serve as a reminder to them of the sacrifices their great grandfathers made on their behalf, long before they ever existed.
This year we returned to the island of Iwo Jima to tell the story of these great men a story that cannot be forgotten. We walked with the very men that had fought there sixty years before, the men that survived to see victory and now returned to tell about it. We strolled down the beaches with the men who were once soaked with the blood of their fellow Marines. We climbed up the hills that they battled up. We lurched to the top of Mt. Suribachi in troop transport trucks and looked down on the island where almost a hundred thousand men were embroiled in one of the fiercest battles of all time. We heard stories of bravery and manhood. Stories of comradeship and loyalty. Stories of leadership and action. And we listened.
The men of World War II fought and died so that we could live in freedom and peace today. We cannot plod on in careless indifference, blind to the sacrifices that afforded us the liberty we now enjoy, glutted with our own success, and filled with the pride of our own life achievements. We stand on the shoulders of our fathers and grandfathers and daily enjoy the benefits that so many soldiers fought for sixty years ago.
One soldier, Seargent Keith Bradrick came home from the war to his beautiful wife and had a son my father. One sailor, Reuben Peterson returned home from the war to his awaiting bride and had a daughter my mother. I am here today because of the Almighty Providence of God through the sacrifices of my grandfathers.
Someday, I may be called to battle. Someday, I will rise to the call and defend my homeland from invasion. Someday, I may crouch in a foxhole with mortars landing on all sides or charge into withering enemy fire to protect my own wife and children. But I wont wait for a war to honor my grandfathers. Today, I will live my life in gratitude. Today, I will tell their stories to the next generation. Today, I will strive to live up to the legacy that they have left to me. Today, I will remember.