News: More than just a statue
Story by Lance Cpl. Javarre Glanton
PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - “Uncommon valor was a common virtue” – a quote by Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz, is etched in stone at the base of Parris Island’s Marine Corps War Memorial.
The monument depicts the legacy of the five Marines and one Navy corpsman who planted the American flag into the top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. It is a replica of the original in Arlington, Va.
The original memorial was sculpted by Felix de Weldon in 1951 and was officially dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nov. 10, 1954 – the Corps’ 179th birthday.
The memorial was sculpted from a famed photograph of the flag raising taken by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal, Feb. 23, 1945.
Rosenthal was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for photography later that year. The photograph quickly became one of the most iconic pictures in history.
Parris Island’s replica statue was placed adjacent to the Peatross Parade Deck, Sept. 5, 1952. The statue stands at almost 8 feet tall from the top of the base to the highest hand on the flagpole.
In more recent years, the depot’s memorial has served a more sacred purpose than the backdrop of hundreds of photos for visitors to the island.
The monument serves as the hallowed ground for the ceremonies in which recruits are handed their Eagle, Globe and Anchors by their drill instructors thus claiming the title Marine.
After three months of training and 54 hours of the Crucible, the recruits step onto the red bricks at the rear of the statue into a formation.
“When I was a recruit, we did it on family day on the parade deck,” said Staff Sgt. Rayford Myers, drill master of 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, who earned his Marine Corps emblem nearly seven years ago. “You can tell by looking at the recruits’ faces that doing it at any other time or place just wouldn’t be fitting.”
When the ceremony switched from a public event to private, it became much more personal, said Myers, a 25-year-old from Washington D.C.
“Most recruits come to tears during the ceremony,” he said. “And nobody wants to cry in front of their family.
“At that moment, everything you’ve done over the past 64 training days hits you,” he added. “The memorial symbolizes the tradition of the Corps and everything the recruits went through. They gain a sense of pride, accomplishment and relief from the past three months of struggle and effort.”