Iwo Jima veterans gather at Memorial Day eventby Toni Randolph, Minnesota Public Radio
The Memorial Day observance at Veterans Memorial Park in Richfield was, like many others across the state and nation, a tribute to veterans who died during war time. It was also the kickoff for the construction of a monument that will honor all veterans from all wars and all branches of the military -- and there were some surprise guests in the audience.
RIchfield, Minn. — After "The Star Spangled Banner" played, there was an invocation and elected officials took the stage. It was all to celebrate a new Richfield memorial -- the Honoring All Veterans Memorial designed by Travis Gorshe.
Gorshe says the circular monument will include six columns.
"They bend inward facing the American flag," Gorshe explains. "Each column represents the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. The curvature of the columns stands for our armed services, which bend but they never break."
Gorshe says a 22,000 pound piece of taconite, already in place, will be the centerpiece of the memorial. He says even though the monument will honor all veterans, it will tell the story of the first flag raising at Iwo Jima in 1945.
It will include a bronze sculpture of Charles "Chuck" Lindberg. Lindberg, 86, who lives in Richfield, was one of the World War II veterans who raised the first flag at Iwo Jima.
Lindberg was the special guest at the ceremony, but he wasn't the only Iwo Jima vet at the event. Midway through the ceremony, an emcee made a surprising announcement to the crowd.
"I have learned that there are possibly two or three more survivors from Iwo Jima here. Where are those survivors from Iwo Jima?"
As it turns out, there were five other Iwo Jima survivors at the ceremony in Richfield. The men range in age from 81 to 86. They joined Lindberg to take pictures and they chatted about D-Day in 1945, like it was yesterday.
Jerome Mickelson was in the Marines.
"We got up that morning. We looked out. All you could see was ships," Mickelson said. "Where did they come from, how they got there? It was ship after ship after ship."
Bob Malone was listening to Mickelson and picked up the story.
"It was pretty impressive. That first morning, about 5 o'clock, it was really impressive where all the ships were firing in on the beach. The battle ships were firing in from over the horizon," Malone remembered. "That whole place was covered with smoke. I thought to myself, 'You know, they're going to kill all those SOBs in there, we're not going to have much to do.' It came as kind of a shock to find out they didn't."
The veterans said they were proud of their service, and pleased that a memorial will be built to honor all members of the military who've died in war time.
Bob Malone, 86, was in the Navy. He says the memorials help people remember the nation's history. But he also says he was a bit surprised at the call for veterans at Monday's ceremony.
"It came as a complete shock to me," Malone says. "I was perfectly content sitting over there, big, fat, dumb and happy, sitiing in my chair. I didn't need to get up for anything."
But the people attending the Memorial Day event in Richfield seemed quite pleased that the World War II veterans were there. They treated them like royalty, taking their pictures and asking for autographs. The wife of one of the veterans even said she's grateful for the tribute to her husband. She says this is an important part of his legacy.
- All Things Considered, 05/28/2007, 5:24 p.m.