News: MWHS-1 walks sacred ground on Iwo Jima
Story by Gunnery Sgt. J. L. Wright Jr.
IWO JIMA, Japan - Marines and sailors of Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1 visited here to conduct a study of the famous Battle of Iwo Jima as part of the unit’s professional military education program Dec. 16.
During the visit, more than 120 Marines from the squadron hiked from Iwoto Field to the top of Mount Suribachi.
Before stepping off on the 4-mile trek, the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Joseph Rupp, explained his intent behind the visit.
“Not only are you going to learn about this magnificent battle,” he said. “We will conduct a relief-and-appointment ceremony for our sergeant major; and, we will conduct a funeral service for a Marine who fought on Iwo Jima.”
The Battle of Iwo Jima, which took place between Feb. 19 and March 26, 1945, is among the most famous in the Corps’ history and was made famous worldwide by Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer-prize winning photograph of the flag-raising at Mount Suribachi.
According to one Marine, visiting the island is an experience of a lifetime.
“This is every Marine’s dream,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Brewer, a Dover, Del., native and embarkation chief for MWHS-1, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “It’s a surreal feeling to be here given the history of what this island means to all Marines and sailors.”
After climbing the more than 550-foot mountain, the Marines and sailors grounded their packs and gathered for a brief class highlighting the details of the amphibious assault and the attack up the mountain.
“You read about this island in the history books,” said Brewer. “It’s one thing to read about it – it’s another to see firsthand.”
Before welcoming the squadron’s new senior enlisted Marine with a sword-passing ceremony, the squadron’s chaplain led a funeral service for retired Col. Earl E. Hendricksen, who passed away early this year.
“It was awesome to have the honor of spreading the ashes of the colonel here,” said Lt. Cmdr. Clifford Stuart, an Anaheim, Calif., native and former Marine. “We put the ashes atop Mount Suribachi facing the landing beach where he landed on Iwo Jima 67 years ago.”
Hendricksen was one of 30,000 Marines from the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions who were responsible for securing the beachhead and securing this vital piece of terrain during World War II.
“We are not even coming close to scratching the surface of what those men did here,” said Brewer. “It is a very humbling experience to be here … being able to come here and put boots on the same ground those men did back in 1945 really puts things into perspective.”