LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — It’s been more than 70 years since the Battle of Iwo Jima, and on Friday in Leavenworth, people came out to thank those who laid their lives on the line.
“We don’t give up, and I’ve never given up in life, and the Marines taught me that a long time ago,” Iwo Jima veteran Jerry Ingram said.
He was just 15 years old when he lied about his age and went to war.
“I lied about my age then, and I haven’t quit lying since,” Ingram said. “No one could have imagined how the savage battle for Iwo Jima, how savage it would become after the first waves landed.”
Ingram remembers the difficult moments he faced on the island in the Pacific.
“Like any battle, its kill or be killed. War is not nice. There’s nothing nice about war at all,” Ingram said. “Every battle you never expected to survive, and the more battles I went through in the Pacific the less chances I thought I’d have of coming home.”
“The raising of the flag over Mount Suribachi on the 23rd of February would also become an iconic symbol for America, for their resolve, and it would come to epitomize the fighting spirit of the United States Marine,” keynote speaker Marine Corps Col. Steve Lewallen said.
Ingram wrote a poem to honor his friends he lost during battle:
“Our flag flew, our flag flew, on the hill called Mount Suribachi.
As we overcame the enemy we knew, we knew.
You’d see freedom become victorious, and it was – you see.”
At 90 years old, Ingram visits Leavenworth National Cemetery each year to honor his brothers and sisters lost years ago.
“The only time I cried in all the years I was in battle is when I walked over to the cemetery at Iwo Jima and saw those thousands and thousands of crosses,” Ingram said. “It’s very very emotional. You don’t forget, and as Americans we must never forget that our freedoms aren’t free. We had to sacrifice and pay the price for our liberty.”
George Westbrook, a 20 year Army veteran who came to recognize Ingram’s bravery, certainly hasn’t forgotten.
“Its an honor and a privilege to be able to stand up here with these people,” Westbrook said. “We call them brothers and sisters because that`s what they are. They’re brothers and sisters to us.”
More than anything, Ingram said, it’s important for people to remember what happened on Mount Suribachi for years to come.
“I think that’s the only reason I’m here,” he said. “I’m firmly convinced that God’s left me here so I can share my experience that with faith and belief in our country you can face anything.”
The battle of Iwo Jima went from Feb. 19 to March 26 in 1945. About 6,800 servicemen died, and nearly 25,000 were wounded. One in three in the battle were killed or wounded, and the Medal of Honor was awarded to 22 Marines and 5 Navy servicemen.