GRANTS PASS, Ore. — The historic island of Iwo Jima, site of the pivotal WWII battle between the United States and Japan, only opens up to visitors one day each year. That day has become known as the "Reunion of Honor," when Japanese and American veterans meet on the battlefield to honor the memories of their fallen brethren.
This year, Young Marine Molly Carino accompanied those veterans on the Reunion as something of an honor guard, along with ten of her Rogue Valley Young Marine comrades and their adult leaders.
“The trip was a chance of a lifetime,” Carino said. “A highlight was meeting Woody “Hershel” Williams, a medal of honor recipient and a WWII veteran. The ability to shake his hand and hear some of his stories was truly spectacular. His spirit and service make him one of the most incredible veterans I have ever had the chance to meet.”
The Young Marines joined veterans and their families along the landing beaches to take part in a memorial service, led by dignitaries and veterans from both the U.S. and Japan. The service remembered the many young men who gave their lives during the battle for the island, according to a statement from the Young Marines.
“Every Young Marine who makes this annual trip treasures the experience,” said Col William P. Davis USMC (Ret), national executive director and CEO of the Young Marines. “They learned history from those who made history. Truly it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
According to the organization, the Young Marines are a national non-profit youth education and service program for boys and girls, age eight through the completion of high school. They promote the mental, moral and physical development of their members, the statement said. The program focuses on teaching the values of leadership, teamwork and self-discipline—so members can live and promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
Iwo Jima is a small, volcanic island that lies 750 miles south of Tokyo. As a result of its volcanic heritage, the five-mile-long island is pocked and tunneled with ancient volcanic vents and caves.
In 1945, an American naval bombardment failed to dent the heavily fortified Japanese defenses, and the result was a 36-day assault led by American Marines. The battle for the island, though ultimately a U.S. victory, left over 25,000 dead between both sides.
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