February 23rd marks 76 years since the raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima in Japan. This battle was a crucial one during World War II. The island of Iwo Jima, provided landing strips for injured aircraft, saving as many as 25,000 airmen who otherwise wouldn't have made it.
Each year, a ceremony is held in Cape Coral to honor the people who battled in Iwo Jima, and to commemorate the 76 year anniversary of the battle, Fox 4 is sharing the stories of men and women who were part of World War II, and why they said it's so important this day is always remembered.
On February 23rd, 1945, the photo that inspired the Iwo Jima statue in Cape Coral was taken, showing the raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima. This marked a turning point in World War II.
"It just became the image of victory in the Pacific, and we all relied on that until the end of the war," Cpl. Julie Sturgeon, from the Marine Corps League Detachment 60, told Fox 4.
"When they raised the flag, it gave the rest of the Marines there the will to really get with it and take the island," USMC Staff Sgt. Bernie Lenhart, 93, said.
"On the 23rd, they raised the flag on Iwo Jima, which brought a cheer from all the men out on the ships. But the battle wasn't over," CWO-3 Wally Dugan, 93, said.
Dugan spent more than 43 years with the Marine Corps. He didn't fight in iwo jima, but did fight in World War II.
"I served with so many of those guys on Iwo Jima. We lost so many kids we shouldn't have lost," he said.
"A buddy of mine that I played football with in high school got killed in Iwo Jima, so every year I think of him," Staff Sgt. Lenhart said.
He told Fox 4 he remembers hearing about the day the American Flag was raised on the radio. He says every battle during World War II was important, but Iwo Jima was one of the most significant.
"Iwo was one of the most costly and hardest to finally resolve," Staff Sgt. Lenhart said.
After the flag was raised on Iwo Jima, the battle continued for a month.
"We had 26,000 casualties in a 35 day period," Cpl. Sturgeon said.
Phyllis Bartlow, 95, was in what was called the W.A.V.E.S. during World war II as a Pharmacist. She wore her original jacket from that time period to the ceremony in Cape Coral.
"When I worked in the hospital, we would take care of the sailors and the Marines that came back that were injured. It meant a lot to help some, you know?" Pharmacist Mate Bartlow said.
All three Veterans agreed with Cpl. Sturgeon, when she said this day must be remembered.
"It can't be forgotten. They're heroes, and they can't be forgotten," Cpl. Sturgeon told Fox 4.
Staff Sgt. Bernie Lenhart, CWO-3 Wally Dugan, and Pharmacist Mate Phyllis Bartlow were all honored at the Iwo Jima anniversary ceremony in Cape Coral. A fourth Veteran, who couldn't make it to the ceremony, was also honored. Marion Burke Dob served in the Women's Army Air Corps as an Engineer.