It has been 77 years since America’s invasion of Iwo Jima, the turning point of WW II’s defeat of Japan and the end of the war. Historians will tell you that the 7,000 US Marines that died in one of the bloodiest battles of the War saved the day for what is estimated to have been one million US and Allied military casualties, had we been forced to make a full scale invasion of Japan. My dad was there.
Over 15 years ago, the Discovery Channel took my dad and another five US Marine and Navy survivors of that epic battle, back to Iwo Jima on the 60th anniversary of the invasion. You can watch it every year on the Military Discovery Channel and it is called, “Going Back.” I was in awe as these untold heroes of American freedom recounted the awful memories of doing battle on this isolated atoll in the Pacific to complete a mission that became one of the most famous battles in the history of ware.
Like most Veterans from “The Greatest Generation,” my dad never spoke of the war. Until I watched him on that television special, I never knew what he and the thousands of US Marines and Navy men went through during those tragic and heroic days. My heart broke as Dad recounted some of the worst memories of losing his friends and even facing the horror of zipping up a body bag carrying his hero of US Medal of Honor Winner, John Basilone. Dad was only a teenaged boy, who like so many of our American fathers and grandfathers joined up to defend our nation.
My father has been gone nearly a decade now, when he died in my arms after a fall broke his hip and the doctors discovered a very large aortic aneurysm, which marked his death sentence. After operations to repair his nearly 87 year old hip and untwist scar tissue around his aorta from an earlier repaired aneurysm, he looked up at me from his hospital bed and begged me not to let him die in the hospital. I “kidnapped” him against doctors orders and took him to his beautiful home by the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, retained a nurse and helper to give him the quality of life he deserved… and he died in my arms just two days later, while we watched the ocean from his bed.
Dad had a great life and I miss him very much. He was a wonderful father to my siblings and me, a fantastic grandfather to my children and those of my brothers and sister and the adoring husband to my dear mother, who passed on many years before him. He was my inspiration for joining the Army:
I can recount many stories of why Dad was my hero but my little sister expressed it best by the remarkable tribute she produced in her video of my dad’s life on the link below:
Today, if you are fortunate to still have your dad or any relative or friend that served our country in any war, reach out with the simple yet so important honor…”Thank you for your service.” They deserve it.
God bless you, Dad and God bless America.