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Iwo Jima veteran Francis Jackson participates in the 72nd Reunion of Honor commemorative service on Iwo To, Japan March 25, 2017. Jackson was one of eight veterans in attendance alongside American and Japanese distinguished guests, both military and civilian. This event presented the opportunity for the U.S. and Japanese people to mutually remember and honor thousands of service members who fought and died on the hallowed grounds of Iwo Jima.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Valerie Eppler

WWII Veterans, guests remember the battle of Iwo Jima

25 Mar 2017 | Staff Sgt. Valerie Eppler The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

At the base of Mount Suribachi on Iwo To, among the most iconic places in Marine Corps history, U.S. Marine, Army and Air Force veterans, families alongside U.S. and Japanese leaders and other distinguished guests gathered to commemorate fallen service members during the 72nd Reunion of Honor ceremony, March 25, 2017. 

The ROH ceremony offers active and veteran service members and their families an opportunity to celebrate the allied relationship between the U.S. and Japan over the last 72 in which they have worked together to advance common interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

In a speech to the attendees of the ceremony, the Commander of Marine Forces Pacific Lt. Gen. David H. Berger said, “We didn’t come here only to see once again what this volcanic island feels like. We came here today, for this reunion, to think about the past and ask what we must do to prevent that type of horrific battle from ever happening again.”

The alliance serves as a model of the power of reconciliation; former adversaries who became unwavering allies and who now work together to advance common interests in the region.

Berger continued, “We have learned from that epic battle. We have moved ahead together, as an alliance, serving shoulder to shoulder around the world.”

While the number of surviving service men from the infamous WWII battle are dwindling, those who were at the ceremony had an air of reverence and humility about them. They appeared occasionally distant and reflective about their time spent here more than 70 years ago.

However, the eight Iwo Jima veterans were also the stars of the show, as they were constantly surrounded by active duty service men and women, of all ranks, who said they wanted to stand near the greatness of these veterans. The veterans were happy to share tales of their days as active duty members and what being on Iwo To meant to them.

Iwo Jima veteran, Marine Corps Sgt. Edwin Hunsberger said he felt a variety of emotions upon returning to the island.

“It looks so different,” said Hunsberger, who is now 90 years old was here when he was just 18. “There wasn’t any vegetation when we were here, and this could be a completely different place from the one that I remember.”

Hunsberger, along with several other veterans, said that if they had been asked about returning to Iwo Jima years ago, they never thought they would have returned.

The friendship that has developed surpasses the treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. The two countries have become invaluable allies over the last 72 years.

Ichiro Aisawa, a member of the House of Representatives of Japan, said during his speech, “I am deeply moved to see, on this very island where the fierce battle was fought, veterans of the two countries and their families transcend the history of more than 70 years ago and reunite and reaffirm their friendship.”

The alliance serves as a model of the power of reconciliation; former adversaries who became unwavering allies and who now work together to advance common interests in the region.

Aisawa said, “Japan and the U.S., which fought against each other 72 years ago, are now working hand-in-hand to achieve international peace and stability. I believe such cooperation consoles the souls of the soldiers from both countries who fought and died on this island.”

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