04-08-2014, 10:45 AM

Each year I am hired to go to Washington , DC ,
with the eighth grade class from Clinton, WI,
where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I
greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some
special memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima
memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and
depicts one of the most famous photographs in history -- that of the six
brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on
the island of Iwo Jima, Japan, during WW II
Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed
towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the
statue, and as I got closer he asked, 'Where are you guys from?
I told him that we were from Wisconsin . 'Hey,
I'm a cheese head, too! Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will
tell you a story.'

(It was James Bradley who just happened to be in Washington , DC , to speak at
the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good
night to his dad, who had passed away. He was just about to leave when
he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and
received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is
one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in
Washington , DC , but it is
quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night.)
When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. (Here are his words that night).
'My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo,
Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I
wrote a book called 'Flags of Our Fathers'. It is the story of the six
boys you see behind me.
'Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is
Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in
the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They
were off to play another type of game. A game called 'War.' But it
didn't turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his
intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that
because there are people who stand in front of this statue and talk
about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in
Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years old - and it was so hard that the
ones who did make it home never even would talk to their families about

(He pointed to the statue) 'You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon
from New Hampshire
If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken and
looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph...a
photograph of his girlfriend Rene put that in there for protection
because he was scared. He was 18 years old. It was just boys who won the
battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

'The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank.
Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the
'old man' because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would
motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some
Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country' He knew he was talking to
little boys.. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you
home to your mothers.'

'The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from
Arizona. Ira Hayes was one of them who lived to walk off Iwo Jima.
He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him,
'You're a hero'. He told reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the
island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?'
So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together
having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the
beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira
Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes carried the pain
home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down, drowned in a
very shallow puddle, at the age of 32 (ten years after this picture was

'The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop,
Kentucky . A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His
best friend, who is now 70, told me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows
up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across
the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epsom salts.
Those cows crapped all night.' Yes, he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy.
Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19.
When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to
the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his
mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into
the morning. Those neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John
Bradley, from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I
was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews.
When Walter Cronkite's producers or the New York Times would call, we
were trained as little kids to say 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not
here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is
no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back.' My dad
never fished or even went to Canada .
Usually, he was sitting there right at the table eating his
Campbell 's soup. But we had to tell the
press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the

see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone
thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a
monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from
Wisconsin was a combat caregiver. On
Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And
when boys died on Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed,
without any medication or help with the pain.

I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a
hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said,
'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima
are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come
'So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo
Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000
boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history
of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank
you for your time.'

Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking
out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words
of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero
for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero

One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC that is
not mentioned here is . . that if you look at the statue very closely
and count the number of 'hands' raising the flag, there are 13. When the
man who made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the
13th hand was the hand of God.
Great story - worth your time - worth every American's time.

04-08-2014, 02:24 PM
Semper Fi.

04-08-2014, 04:02 PM
As to why I still serve. Not for glory or metals but for the young ones coming in that will need an anchor when real bullets start flying. Follow ME!

04-18-2014, 09:37 AM
Great read!

red crayon
04-19-2014, 11:44 AM
Thats a great story! I have talked to several people who have won medals in Iraq and Afghanistan none of them think that they are Heroes. I think that they all are!

Have you hugged your Soldier today, think about it.

04-19-2014, 12:08 PM
Thank you Zed.

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08-18-2014, 09:47 AM
Very good read...thanks zedhed