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U.S. Marines landed on the island of Iwo Jima 71 years ago today, marking the first day of an intense 36-day battle that is credited with being one of the major turning points in World War II.
Friday at the State House, a ceremony was held to honor those who fought and those who died. WBUR's Steve Brown was there, and he reports on a speech given by Larry Kirby, 91, of Manchester-by-the-Sea. Kirby was one of the 110,000 Marines who took part in the battle.
Read a transcript of Kirby's remarks:
Close to 7,000 Marines were killed on Iwo Jima. And 22 of those Marines were my very, very close friends. I visit them every day in my mind. I look at their faces, and I see each face one after another and I hear his voice and listen to him laugh and I think of something unique in his face. It’s like, it’s like swiping photographs on your iPad. All 22 of them. And I see Billy Jordan, who had a mole right under his left eye. A little tiny one. And then I see my friend Duane Cook, whose face was a mass of freckles. Wonderful boy. And Lou Holcomb. Earlier a mortar had exploded and the concussion slammed Lou to the deck, and his mouth slammed against the bolt cover of his M1, and he knocked a piece of his tooth out. When I see Lou in my mind, I see that chipped tooth grin. And I will never forget them.
When a young man is killed in an automobile crash, we say that he lost his life. When a young man is killed in combat, we say that he gave his life. It’s just a different verb, but the meaning, the difference, is tremendous. Because the boy in the car, when he crawled out of bed that morning, he had no idea what was waiting for him. But the young boys that I knew, that we served with, when they climbed down the cargo net and got into that landing craft to go to the beach, they knew there was a very good chance that they would die. And they still did it. They willingly gave it.
And I think of what they gave, they gave for example, that excitement that you get the first day you go to college, or start a new career. They gave up the advantages of going to work or going to college, making a lot of new friends, the fun you’d have. And think about the joys of dating pretty girls. And they gave up that unbelievable feeling of happiness for a young man when he falls in love. And then, they gave up that marvelous, giddy excitement you have when you dance with your bride at your wedding. And then, I realize that they gave up that wonderful feeling of wonder when you hold in your arms your newborn child. And then later the excitement, the nervous excitement of walking your daughter down the aisle at her wedding. And then later on, in life, beyond even where we are, within where we are, that tremendous feeling of happiness and joy when you stand as your little grandchild comes running and stumbling to leap into your arms and you hug that kid and you love him with every fiber of your being. All those young boys didn’t just die, they gave their lives.
I’m almost 92 years old, and they’re still 18 or 19 or 20. And that broad span of time is filled with the years they never lived. And those years make up the lives that they gave to you, and to me, so that we can live our lives in freedom. And I will forever be in their debt.
This segment aired on February 19, 2016.
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