(View My 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 Trip Photos)
This year was my 6th time to attend the Guam/Iwo Jima trip organized by Military Historical Tours. This year we commemorated the 67th anniversary of the Battle for Iwo Jima. Last year's flight from Guam to Iwo Jima was cancelled due to the devastating Tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, but this year's trip went off without a hitch. On Guam we stayed at the beautifully located Outrigger Hotel Tumon Bay with it's breathtaking views (see previous trip photos). Our group had several days of touring on Guam before heading to Iwo Jima on an early morning United Airlines flight on March 14. We were greeted on Iwo Jima by members of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) who had come in from Guam the day before. Some of us rode in vehicles supplied by the USMC's 3rd Division operating out of Guam, while others walked the island. Some brave souls walked all the way from the Reunion of Honor Memorial site to the top of Mt. Suribachi.
The Reunion of Honor (or tsuito-shiki) was held at the usual location, just above the landing beaches where the Marines came ashore on Feb 19, 1945. One side of the memorial stone has English, facing inland, while the other side of the stone facing the sea has a Japanese inscription. The ceremony was brief, marked only by the occasional bird chirping or the wind rustling the brush around the tents set up for the occasion.
After the Opening remarks by Mr. Tetsuro Teramoto (Vice-Chairman, Iwo Jima Kyokai) and Col. Warren Wiedhahn, the flags of both nations were marched in followed by the playing of both nation's anthems by a combined US-Japanese military band.
The invocation was made by Chaplain LT Scott Shafer, 3D Med Bn. After the prayer, remarks were made by the following:
Mr. Yasunori Nishi, President of the Iwo Jima Kyokai. He is the son of Col Takeichi Nishi, the Olympic gold medalist who died on Iwo Jima.
Mr. Ichiro Aisawa, Member, House of Representitives and President of Parliamentary League of Iwo Jima.
Mr. Yoshitaka Shindo, Member, House of Representatives and Representative of the Bereaved Families of Iwo Jima.
Mr. Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr. Kurt Tong, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy
LtGen. Kenneth J. Glueck, Commanding General, III MEF
LtGen Larry Snowden, USMC (ret), Chairman of Iwo Jima Association of America. He was wounded in the Battle for the island. His remarks were preceded by a Japanese language introduction and words of condolence offered by Dan King to the Japanese for the losses suffered during the Great Tsunami of 2011.
After the ceremony, many of the people attending walked the lonely black beaches gathering sand to take home to loved ones. Several Japanese have asked me why we Americans take home the beach sand year after year. I always tell them that the sand is stained with the blood, sweat and bitter tears of our brothers, fathers, uncles and grandfathers. It is not a souvenir, it is precious holy ground.
I sincerely hope that the U.S. and Japanese will continue with this tradition of honoring those brave souls from both sides who gave their lives on that tiny island. Japan and America enjoy a long lasting friendship based on mutual respect and admiration.
I wish to thank Captain Tatsuro Sato (JMSDF) commander of Iwoto Air Station, and Col. Yasuaki Iitaka (JGSDF), commander of the Iwoto Base for their hospitality and courtesy shown to our WWII veterans. Special thanks to Marty Morgan for sharing so many of his photos.