Today is Iwo Jima Day, the anniversary of when five United States Marines and a Navy Corpsman raised the flag on the embattled island that gave the Iowa Jima, or Marine Corps Memorial, its name.
The Iwo Jima Memorial honors the Marines who have died defending the United States since 1775. The Iwo Jima Memorial is located near Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
The 32-foot-high sculpture of the Iwo Jima Memorial was inspired by a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of one of the most historic battles of World War II. Iwo Jima, a small island located 660 miles south of Tokyo, was the last territory that U.S. troops recaptured from the Japanese during World War II. The Iwo Jima Memorial statue depicts the scene of the flag raising by five Marines and a Navy corpsman that signaled the successful takeover of the island. The capture of Iwo Jima eventually led to the end of the war in 1945.
The figures of the Marines in the Iwo Jima Memorial statue erect a 60-foot bronze flagpole from which a cloth flag flies 24 hours a day. The base of the memorial is made of rough Swedish granite which is inscribed with the names and dates of every principal member of the U.S. Marine Corps. Also engraved are the words "In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since November 10, 1775."
The memorial features the Marines and sailor who raised the second flag over Iwo Jima: Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, PFC Franklin Sousley, PFC Rene Gagnon, PFC Ira Hayes and PM2 John Bradley.
Fewer and fewer people remember the actual raising of the flag on Iwo Jima. Most have passed on.
That's why it's so important to continue to remember this date and the unbridled courage and ultimate sacrifice of those who helped raise the flag, as well as the many others who have fallen in our nation's battles before and after.
They are why we are free.