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A detail of high school students with Central Indiana Young Marines reenact the famous Mount Suribachi flag-raising during the First Annual Iwo Jima Memorial Service at the Indiana War Memorial Museum Feb. 23. Detachment 1, Communications Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group invited more than a dozen Iwo Jima Marine veterans from across Indiana to the event to honor their service on Iwo Jima.

Photo by Cpl. Jad Sleiman

Indiana Reservists honor Iwo Jima Vets

23 Feb 2011 | Cpl. Jad Sleiman U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

A Peru, Ind., Reserve unit invited more than a dozen Marine Corps Iwo Jima veterans from across the state to an event in their honor at the Indiana War Memorial Museum Feb. 23.

The First Annual Iwo Jima Memorial Service featured a video documenting the tenacious World War II battle, a reenactment of the famous Mount Suribachi flag-raising and a 21-gun salute. Detachment 1, Communications Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group also invited Indianapolis mayor and retired Marine, Gregory A. Ballard, to speak to the attendees.

“Last Veterans Day we had an Iwo Jima veteran come to our location and bring flowers for the Marines,” said Capt.  E. Marcus Trouerbach, Det. 1 inspector-instructor commanding officer. “I decided I wanted to do something for them.”

Trouerbach took his ideas to Det. 1 I-I First Sergeant, 1st Sgt. Ronnie Williams, who then added some ideas of his own.

“The military today is here because of these guys, “said Williams. “Basically, we want to let them know they are not forgotten.”

After a media campaign, reaching out to veterans organizations via phone and e-mail,  the Marines of Det. 1 found 19 living Iwo Jima veterans, many in their 90s, and coordinated with relatives and friends to make sure the former Marines could make it to the event. Spread across the state, many had never met their fellow Iwo Jima vets before the events’ social hour. 

“There isn’t a one here that I actually served with or knew,” said Iwo Jima veteran Robert S. Crouch, one of the memorial service’s two guests of honor who retired as a master gunnery sergeant  in 1984. “It feels good to get together and reminisce, once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Leighton Willhite, the event’s other guest of honor; spoke to the attendees about what it was like to be a part of history on Iwo Jima’s black sands.

“I’d never seen so many ships in my life. Everywhere you looked there was another ship,” he told a packed auditorium of veterans and their loved ones.

Willhite had been told to look for Japanese snipers in the trees. The volcanic island had no trees surrounding its famous mount. He had been told to expect a little over 2,000 sickly Japanese. There were 22,000 die-hard defenders.

Trouerbach and Ballard also spoke, exalting the importance of the battle and the iconic flag-raising.

“There are a lot of places and battles that we remember, but none like the flag-raising. It speaks to us,” said Ballard.

Trouerbach quoted “Flags of Our Fathers” author James Bradley, who said the “heroes” of Iwo Jima are the Marines and sailors who never made it off the island.

“Although I agree, to some extent, with James Bradley’s words, I can say with complete confidence that there are heroes standing amongst all of you here today,” said Trouerbach. “Today we honor all of the men who fought on Iwo Jima: those that perished and those that came home.”