Iwo Jima World War Two Reunion is Underway

Samaria Terry | Texoma's Homepage

Each year, real American heroes and their family come to Wichita Falls from across the nation to remember one of the most hard fought battles of World War II and their comrades who did not come home.

The Iwo Jima Survivors Reunion was organized more than 25 years ago,hopes of also recognizing all branches of the military that took part.

72 years ago, brave men stormed the beaches and fought in the first American attack on the Japanese home islands during world war II.

And since 1990, those veterans have come from around the country to Wichita Falls, for the Iwo Jima Reunion. Like keynote speaker, Marine Corporal Hershel "Woody" Williams, whose heroism and bravery to run towards the enemy with his 70 pound flame thrower, helped the US defeat the Japanese.

Williams said President Harry S. Truman invited him to the White House and changed his life forever.

"It's one of naturally the greatest things that could happen in my life," said Williams. "When I was awarded, the Medal of Honor, I never heard tell of it. I did not know it existed. I did not realize why I was receiving it, but the day that President Truman, Harry S. Truman, our President, pinned one of these ribbons around my neck with that medal, my life completely changed."

The Medal of Honor is the United States' highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.

"Now I didn't just represent me, I represented those marines on Iwo Jima who gave their life in combat," Williams said.

During the 2 month long battle, 27 U.S. military personnel were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions.

Williams is the last surviving recipient, who chooses to return year after year.

"Every time I come, I see the individuals of course year after year and there is a friendship and a camaraderie here that doesn't exist in most places," said Williams. "We all serve the same Lord, we all served the same country, we all believe in the same thing, so it's a happy time."

And it's an event that would not be possible without it's founder, 97-year-old Cy Young, a Bowie graduate and high school coach who became a landing boat officer at Okinawa and Iwo Jima.

"We all thinking this will be our last year, but we don't believe them," said Young. "We'll probably be back next year. We're getting a little old, but we get around. Have to use some help, have to use family to get us around. But if you have good family, you get there."

Williams has also started a foundation to honor other Medal of Honor recipients, as well as their families.

But the reunion is far from over. Tomorrow the survivors and friends will participate in a reenactment of the famous flag raising at 10 am at the Wellington then greet Texoma families from 1:30 to 3:00.

Then the giant "All Forces Banquet" is Saturday evening at 6:30. Tickets to that are $30 dollars.

This is the 26th year for the reunion in our area and the 72nd anniversary of the battle.