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Iwo Jima commemoration stirs up emotions of war

High School Senior Gelgut is currently a Young Marine who will be entering the Marines upon his graduation.
By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD - On Feb. 23, four generations of soldiers met at the West Springfield City Hall to commemorate the flag raising on Mt. Surabachi on Iwo Jima that took place Feb. 23, 1945. Soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War filled the municipal space.

"I feel honored to honor these men today and not just these men but the men who gave their lives at Iwo Jima," James G. Berrelli Jr., US Army Vietnam Veteran and Director of Veterans' Services, said.

"As a young man I am very proud to see that compassion, honor and courage," high school senior Justin Gelgut said. Currently a Young Marine, he will be entering the Marines upon graduation.

"We are in a conflict right now surrounded with political turmoil," Daniel Sprinkle, Major in the US Marine Corps and Iraq War veteran, said. "Everyone has an easy answer but no one has the right answer. We do not set the policy. We are instruments."

Mayor Edward Gibson, State Representative James Welch and City Council members who were in attendance thanked the veterans for their service.

The iconic Pulitzer Prize winning photograph from the Battle of Iwo Jima, "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima" was taken by the late American photographer Joe Rosenthal. His picture went on to become one of the best-known photographs of the war. It was said that the American people saw Rosenthal's photo as a powerful victory symbol.

Iwo Jima was the only large engagement of WWII in which the Allied forces suffered more casualties (dead plus injured) than their Japanese opponents. Over a quarter of the Medals of Honor awarded to Marines in World War II were given for conduct in the invasion of this battle.

On February 19, 1985, the "Reunion of Honor" took place. Ex-soldiers of both sides who fought in the battle of Iwo Jima, attended the event. It took place at the invasion beach where US forces landed. A monument with writings engraved by both sides was constructed at the center of the beach. Japanese representatives attended at the mountain side, where Japanese writing was carved, and American representatives attended at the shore side where English writing was carved. After an offering of flowers was made, representatives of both countries approached the monument and shook hands.

During the "Reunion of Honor" a granite plaque was unveiled with the following message:

"On the 40th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, American and Japanese veterans met again on these same sands, this time in peace and friendship. We commemorate our comrades, living and dead, who fought here with bravery & honor, and we pray together that our sacrifices on Iwo Jima will always be remembered and never be repeated."

Upon conclusion of the West Springfield ceremony, veterans were given flags to honor their service.