CAMP PENDLETON, CA —Camp Pendleton and the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee hosted a three-day commemorative celebration, Feb. 15-17, 2018, in honor of the 73rd Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Each year the event showcases new updates and additions to Camp Pendleton. This year, veterans of the battle and their family members were given a tour, which included a special reaction team static display, Meal Ready to Eat sampling, and a tour of the Assault Craft Unit-5.
“The tour is to show honor to all the Iwo Jima veterans and their families,”said Daniel Zepeda Jr., Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee treasurer. “The Battle of Iwo Jima was iconic enough to not change the Marine Corps, but to improve the Marine Corps. Today’s Marines have equipment that was nonexistent back in 1945, and it’s gratifying to show the veterans physical proof that they have made a difference.”
One such improvement is the development of the Landing Craft Air Cushion, an amphibious landing vehicle that is maintained at Assault Craft Unit-5. The LCAC allows Marines to land on beaches that would otherwise be inaccessible with conventional water crafts. This is an especially relevant development to the veterans, who conducted an amphibious landing during the Battle of Iwo Jima with the Landing Vehicle Tracked. Each year there are fewer surviving partipcants.
“In 1985, the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee was founded and run only by Iwo Jima veterans, with 600 veterans out of 800 attendees. Today we only have two veterans on the committee and 26 veterans with 436 attendees,” said Zepeda, of the dinner guests. “The decrease in members is a result of most of the members passing away and those who are still living today are at least 90 years of age.”
As a result, Iwo Jima family members have stepped in to take their place. They participate to show honor and support for all the veterans of World War ll.
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for my family,” said retired U.S. Marine Sgt. Edward Mix, an Iwo Jima veteran with 5th Marine Division. “I have my daughters, my niece and her family, and my nephew with his family. They all wanted to join me on the tour to show their appreciation for what the veterans have done for the U.S.”
The culminating event of the Iwo Jima commemorative celebration was a memorial service and banquet, which included a wreath laying, 21-gun salute, and remarks from guest speakers like Maj. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, commander, Marine Corps Installations Command.
“Everyday somebody in that group is thinking about Iwo Jima,” said Coglianese of Marines around the world when he addressed the Iwo Jima veterans in attendance. “It is happening tonight, someone is wondering if they measure up. You are my heroes.”
Iwo Jima was a strategic battle of World War II in which the United States Marine Corps landed on and eventually captured the island from the Japanese Imperial Army. Roughly 70 thousand U.S. Marines fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. The annual event memorializes the almost 7 thousand Marines killed in action.