Los Fresnos News

Veterans honored at 75th Anniversary of Battle of Iwo Jima ceremony

Marine Military Academy cadets march in front of the Iwo Jima Monument during the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima commemoration, which was held Feb. 19 at the MMA parade grounds in Harlingen. Photos: Carmen Garcia / MMA


Rodolfo Martinez tried not to make it noticeable, but he was crying. Sort of.
Not bawling or sobbing uncontrollably, but in the corner of each of his eyes there was a small pool of tears slowly welling up.

No one would have noticed had he not produced a small, white handkerchief from his pants pocket and wiped away the pesky tears, which alerted his wife who quickly offered her condolences.

Martinez, a retired Marine originally from California who now resides in Brownsville, looked around, visibly embarrassed.

“I’m a Marine who served during the Vietnam War and I didn’t want to show any emotion, but I just couldn’t help it. Today is a day of remembrance and I couldn’t help think of my father and all the other men who fought so bravely,” he said after the commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, which was held on Feb. 19 at Marine Military Academy in Harlingen.

Martinez and more than 100 other visitors that included retired and active servicemen and women, along with their families, friends and loved ones, gathered in front of the famed Iwo Jima Monument on the campus of MMA to honor the brave men who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima, which began on Feb. 19, 1945 and ended 36 days later on March 26, 1945.

People in attendance at the Battle of Iwo Jima commemoration included retired and active duty servicemen and women, as well as several local dignitaries such as Judge Mike Trejo. Photo: Carmen Garcia / MMA

During the pivotal battle, U.S. troops suffered 28,851 casualties and 6,825 deaths. Meanwhile, nearly all of the 22,000 Japanese troops that had been stationed on the small island of Iwo Jima, which is located 660 miles south of Tokyo, died.

After U.S. Marines finally captured Mount Suribachi on the island, a group of six Marines, including Weslaco native Harlon Block, raised an American flag at the top of the strategic mountain. The scene was captured that day by news photographer Joe Rosenthal and later that picture became the inspiration for what would become the immortal national monument that resides in Arlington, Virginia, at Arlington National Cemetery.

The monument that is in Harlingen on the MMA parade grounds is actually the mold cast that Dr. Felix W. de Weldon, who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, used to create the one in our nation’s capital. Dr. de Weldon gave it to MMA in October 1981 and it was officially dedicated on April 16, 1982. Block, who was a Marine corporal during the battle, is actually buried at the monument’s base.

During the ceremony, Col. Christopher S. Dowling, president of MMA, laid a wreath at the gravesite while the MMA cadet band played “Taps.” Afterward everyone in attendance was invited to join him at the gravesite to honor Block, who had surviving family members in attendance.

“This monument represents the greatness of America and honors all who have served and serve now,” Dowling told those in attendance during the ceremony.

But for Martinez, the commemoration signified something far more personal.

“I came here for my father,” he said. “He served during World War II and if he were still alive today, I know he would have been here. But by me being here, I know that he would be proud.”