Guam and Iwo Jima - Brief Notes
While in Guam on Monday and Tuesday, I toured battlefields with Vets and Students. I learned a lot about the invasion of Guam, where the USA amassed an armada of 500 ships, and still many of the marines, transported by those ships had to walk and carry their gear and guns 500 yards in the shallow bays. They were easy targets for the Japanese. Amazing.
Much like to two years ago, there was anxiety around actually getting a couple of our vets to Iwo Jima for the ceremony. A couple of them had some passport and visa issues that we had to deal with in the final hours before boarding the plane in the middle of the night to fly from Guam to Iwo JIma. More about that later!
To me, Iwo Jima was a very quiet, solemn place much like a cathedral or shrine and in some ways felt like a cemetery. I was honored to be on the island and thought very much about the bravery and sacrifice of those young men who fought so hard for our country in that bloody battle. Upon those first few minutes on the island, I felt relief about having arrived and a sense of finality and quiet. I did not want to talk. I took a long walk along the invasion beach and tried to imagine the thousands of marines storming the beach and the chaos and bloodshed. I picked up pieces of shrapnel and inspected old pill boxes and machine gun placements. I stood at the top of Mt. Suribachi where the Flag and Gung Ho pictures were taken. I had my picture taken with one of our Vets, Mr. Jack Thurman, Sergeant of Longmont who was one of the marines pictured in the Gung Ho photograph. He was one of the two gentlemen who we helped with visa issues.
Surabachi is an active volcano, and sulfur vents can be seen steaming out of the caldera along with fissures in the road from several recent earthquakes. The Japanese/US ceremony was interesting and somewhat surreal in part because much of the emotion was experienced when I helped Sergeant Thurman and PFC Cotton Billingsley get their entry permit to the island.
There are lots of stories about all of the veterans and about the process obtaining the entry visas, but now it is the crack of dawn on Thursday in Guam and I have to catch a shuttle to airport for the flight back in time across the Dateline to Hawaii and then home. I land at home around mid-day on Thursday....
Guam Day 2
"The wifi comes and goes here so my posts are a little sporadic. We had a great day yesterday. The group met with Governor Eddie Calvo and Rep Madeline Bordallo from Guam. (Rep. Bruce Braley and I are supposed to have an early breakfast with her before we tour the Guam battlefields today.) We travel to Iwo Jima tomorrow for a ceremony commemorating the battle. I've visited with several of the Vets and listened to their stories. Their stories are fascinating. Some pretty chilling and greusome memories and some very heart warming. Google Former Captain Dale Dye. He and his wife are helping with the program. He is a former Marine Captain, military historian, actor and director. He is quite a character. The weather has been great here, although we had a pretty bumpy rise getting here. "
As I write this, it's 4 a.m. on Monday, March 12 in Guam. (I think it's about 2 p.m. on Sunday in Denver). I left Denver with a group of veterans from Colorado and members of The Greatest Generations Foundation on Friday night for LA where we spent the night before continuing on to Honolulu then to Guam. It was about a 14 hour flight and we arrived at our hotel in Guam around 9 p.m. on Sunday night. I have visited with a number of the Vets about their thoughts about the program we are about to go through and their return to the battlefields where they served. They are excited and a little apprehensive. We are based on Guam and will travel to Iwo Jima on the 14th. Today, we will all meet with the Governor of Guam.
I look forward to sharing more of this experience with everyone. Attached are some photos of before we left and I will post some more as the trip continues.