Camp Pendleton, Calif. --
Camp Pendleton hosted the 71st Iwo Jima Commemoration, Feb. 18-20.
The Iwo Jima Commemoration included a tour of various units and facilities, a Sunset Memorial involving the laying of the commemorative wreath and a banquet.
“The Battle of Iwo Jima is an icon in Marine Corps history,” said Daniel Zepeda Jr., the treasurer and publicity director for the Iwo Jima Committee. “It’s just something we have to remember and we have to thank these guys.”
Veterans toured the newly opened Hanger Six at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, they dined with Marines and Sailors at the 22 Area Mess Hall and saw a demonstration by the 1st Medical Battalion Sailors.
“They like coming here and talking to the Marines,” said Zepeda. “They want to know what is going on. They want to keep up to today as much as they can. It’s very interesting to them and vice versa, so it’s a win for win deal, and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”
According to retired Master Sgt. William Behana, an Iwo Jima veteran, the training for Marines back in the World War II era was not as good as it is today.
“The training then, wasn’t as good as the training today,” said Behana. “I think our guys are doing a good job.”
The Iwo Jima Commemorative Banquet featured a 21 gun salute, music by the 1st Marine Division Band, a speech from guest of honor, Brig. Gen. James W. Bierman Jr., commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot/Western Recruiting Region, a cake cutting ceremony and an empty chair tribute.
“Iwo Jima is not just a battle story,” said Bierman. “It remains the battle story of our Corps.”
The ceremony concluded with a reenactment of the flag raising atop Mt. Suribachi and singing of the Marines’ Hymn.
“We are Marines,” said Behana. “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”