Iwo Jima veterans honored on battle’s 71st anniversary
By State House News Service | February 19, 2016, 16:07 EDT
BOSTON – A trio of Marines who fought at Iwo Jima during World War II were honored Friday morning by officials who included Secretary of Veterans Services Francisco Urena.
Urena, a Marine himself, praised the vets at a ceremony in Memorial Hall to mark the 71st anniversary of the start of the bloody action, which took the lives of almost 7,000 members of the service. The five-week battle, the first on one of Japan’s home islands, cost 21,000 Japanese lives by the time it ended on March 26, 1945.
The epic struggle produced one of the most famous images to come out of the war, a picture of several Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mt. Surbachi, snapped by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
“Semper Fidelis” Urena told the veterans, quoting a Marine motto, as he left the podium. But one of them, Larry Kirby, said the special place of honor is reserved for the 22 close friends he lost on Iwo Jima, and the other Marines who died there.
“I visit them every day in my mind,” said Kirby, 92, recalling a few of their faces.
“If a young man dies in a car crash, we say he lost his life,” Kirby said. “But they gave their lives. All those young boys – they didn’t just die, they gave their lives.”
Kirby invited the audience to consider the nature of the sacrifice – that his friends gave up their wedding days, their careers, the joy of parenting and grandparenting – all for their country.
Written by Craig Sandler