The Battle of Iwo Jima raged from February 19 through March 26, 1945. Nearly 7,000 US Marines were killed, and at least 20,000 wounded. Elwood “Woody” Hughes had always wanted to honor the men who sacrificed their lives in that battle. He planned to raise the flag at a Lexington elementary school on Tuesday, but he died before it could happen. A platoon of Army and Air Force ROTC cadets at the University of Kentucky (UK) took up the call and raised the flag for him on February 23.
76 Years Ago Today
“They kind of treat people like me as a celebrity and a hero. I feel I’m not. I shouldn’t be. Because the heroes never walked off Iwo Jima.”
Elwood “Woody” Hughes
Marine Veteran Elwood “Woody” Hughes arrived on Iwo Jima on February 22, 1945, one day before the iconic flag raising photo was taken. He called himself a “Go-fer” or runner to relay messages. He was with the 5th Marine Division. The flag raising photo was not the end of the battle, but toward the beginning. It was one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.
Elwood “Woody” Hughes landed at Iwo Jima in the 2nd wave. He served in the 5th Marine Division, Signal Battalion, and worked with the Navajo code-talkers, who used Native-American (little-known) languages as a basis to transmit coded messages to other Allies.
American Veterans Center (video at the link)
The ceremony at UK was in conjunction with other similar flag-raisings in honor of Hughes and other veterans on Tuesday, taking place at Veterans Park Elementary in Lexington, some schools in Germany and many schools in the Chicago area where Hughes spent much of his life as a teacher, said Steven Hughes, one of Elwood’s grandsons…
…Steven said his grandfather was a natural communicator and storyteller and loved to honor people through talking about them. But Elwood didn’t tell many stories about the war until much later in his life, Steven said, “because he realized a lot of people wanted to hear those stories.”
“He was a storyteller,” said Steven, a high voltage utility manager at UK who attended the ceremony. “That’s how he honored people. And I’m honored to do that for him.”
The ranks of those who fought in the horrific battles of WWII are rapidly dwindling. It is important to hear their stories and heed the lessons of those stories. No matter how much technology rises, or how many ways people find to attack their enemies, one thing remains: freedom isn’t free. It must be valued and fought for, whatever the battlefield.
- 72 Years Ago Today, US Marines Land on Iwo Jima
- Iwo Jima – The Legend, The Marines
- Iwo Jima Hot Chocolate
Featured photo: Screenshot vi a Lexington Kentucky Herald video of ROTC cadets raising the flag to honor Iwo Jima veterans
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Author: Faye Higbee
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