HOUSTON RESIDENT EXPLAINS IMPORTANCE OF IWO JIMA MONUMENT
Independence Day is every day for William Martin
Martin, a rising senior at Marine Military Academy (MMA) in Harlingen, Texas, never takes his freedom or his beloved country for granted. In fact, every day at school he gets to see a historic treasure and a symbol of American pride: the Iwo Jima Monument.
MMA, a military boarding school for boys, is home to the Iwo Jima Monument. The Iwo Jima Monument located in South Texas and the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington,Va., have symbolized American honor, courage and commitment for almost 70 years.
“The monument means a lot more than the raising of a flag. It represents the pride and the importance of standing by your country,” he said.
Not only does Martin get to view the monument every day, he gets to march directly in front of it seven times a year during the school’s battalion parades. As the captain of the MMA Color Guard, Martin has the honor of carrying the American flag on the parade grounds and raising it for the national anthem.
Though he holds the highest respect for the American flag, Martin has noticed that most people from his generation are not as whole-hearted. He believes his generation just needs to be better acquainted with their country’s history and the sacrifices of their forefathers.
“You can’t be patriotic for something you know nothing about,” he said.
For Martin, the Iwo Jima Monument reminds him of his purpose at military school.
“You don’t just want to become a better person. You want to become a better person for your country,” he said.
Martin continued: “It is a blessing every day to get to see the monument.”
History of the Iwo Jima Monument
Texas has been home to the Iwo Jima Monument since 1982. However, the history of this magnificent statue dates back to 1945, during World War II.
On Feb. 19, 1945, members of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Division stormed the tiny Pacific island of Iwo Jima expecting little resistance. Unknown to the Allies, the Japanese had spent months fortifying the island through underground tunnels. A month-long struggle ensued in which more than 6,000 Marines and 20,000 Japanese soldiers perished.
On the fifth day of battle, U.S. Marines raised two flags on top of Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi. The second flag-raising was captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal. Rosenthal’s photo of five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the American flag was published worldwide.
The famous photo inspired Dr. Felix de Weldon, a sculptor and World War II Navyman, to create a massive scale of it. He labored for nine-and-a-half years before the statue was cast in bronze. On Nov. 10, 1954, on the 179th Anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially dedicated the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va.
Twenty-seven years later, De Weldon officially gifted his original, full-size plaster model to MMA in 1981. It took nearly six months for the school to assemble it, but MMA dedicated the Iwo Jima Monument on April 16, 1982.
MMA was chosen as the monument’s home for several reasons: the school is based on the traditions and values of the Marine Corps; the school’s founders named the main street Iwo Jima Boulevard; and the fairly constant temperature and humidity of South Texas would help preserve the statue’s plaster.
Above all, however, the Marine who is depicted at the base of the flagpole in the Iwo Jima Monument was Corporal Harlon Block of Weslaco, Texas. Block did not return from World War II, but this South Texan will live on forever in De Weldon’s masterpiece. His gravesite resides directly behind the Iwo Jima Monument.
To learn more about the Iwo Jima Monument, visit MMA-TX.org/About-Us/Iwo-Jima-Monument/.