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OPINION

They Fought For Us – Now It's Our Turn

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As a Marine with four years to go until retirement in 1994, I disembarked with others from the USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) onto a landing craft waiting to take our group about a half-mile north across the Pacific Ocean toward the Island Iwo Jima.  We were there to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Leyte Gulf.  

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As we made our way through the Pacific toward the southern edge of the island, it was all but impossible to grasp the fact that we were taking the same route, in a similar landing craft, that American troops took during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  

They had no idea before they arrived that the tiny island had been fortified with 11 miles of tunnels that connected 1,500 rooms, bunkers, pill boxes, ammunition dumps and artillery emplacements.  About 70,000 Americans fought on Iwo Jima.  Some 26,000 of them were casualties.  About 6,800 died.   

Words can’t describe how sacred that black, sulfurous sand felt under my feet, knowing that the blood of so many young Americans were beneath it somewhere.  Mt. Suribachi, site of the famed flag-raising, stood in the distance at the southwest tip of the island.

While waiting to be housed in one of the island’s Quonset huts, we spoke to a group of Americans who had not set foot on the island in nearly five decades.  They had war stories, of course.  For me, one stood out.  

A former Marine who looked to be in his 70s talked about his first landing on Iwo in ‘45. He was chatting with a close buddy as they approached the island in Higgins boats from their ship.  The moment the door dropped, his buddy was shot in the stomach and his intestines gushed out.  Very much alive, he watched his friend run around in the soft black sand of Iwo Jima, screaming and frantically trying to stuff his intestines back into his body.  

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Others told of seeing portions of their buddy’s heads blown off while still alive, body parts separated and flung over the battlefield, and the unbearable grief of seeing their fallen buddies being buried at sea in flag-draped caskets, thousands of miles from home. 

This is the stuff I force myself to think about on Memorial Day.

I also thought of a speech I heard at a March Air Reserve Base POW commemoration about Air Force Fighter pilot Capt. Lance Sijan.  His F-4C fighter bomber crashed in a ball of fire over Vietnam in 1967 after a malfunction caused the plane’s ordnance to detonate prematurely.  With no survival kit, no food, little water, a fractured skull, a mangled hand, and fractured leg, he evaded capture for 46 days by crawling down a rocky limestone karst on his back.  He was captured on Christmas Day.  

“It didn’t take his captors long to figure out that without too much effort on their part – it was either prodding or poking or twisting or turning his arms and legs – that they could send shards of excruciating pain through every fiber of his being,” said Michael Goldware, a Southern California attorney.  “His fellow prisoners knew they could do nothing to help him, but he knew he could do something for them.  In all these torture sessions, Capt. Sijan could repeatedly be heard threatening his captors.”  

Sijan died in captivity from disease, exhaustion, and malnutrition, but never gave up information to his captors.  

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Goldware also told of Lt. Cmdr. Mike Christian, who was beaten severely after his captors discovered he used a bamboo needle to sew an American flag on the inside of his shirt. Fellow prisoners used it to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at meals.  After being tortured, his cell mates cleaned him up as best they could.  Later, with both eyes nearly closed from severe beatings, they saw him with that bamboo needle, sewing another flag, straining to see his project in the dimly lit cell.

The love, bravery and sacrifices of these men – and thousands like them – puts the half-baked revolutionary rhetoric of today’s woke left into perspective. It also puts our “war-weary” fight against this truly domestic enemy into perspective.  For their sake and those destined to come after us, we can never surrender to tyrants and idiots when so many have shed their blood for us to enjoy the freedom we do today.

The woke army has infiltrated American centers of power in government, business, sports, and the media, and are making the country unrecognizable with dangerous gibberish about equity, social justice, gender, climate change, and with weak D.C. Capitol Police and politicians equating an out-of-control protest like Jan. 6 with “serving in war.”   

One of the lowest bulbs of the American left, Socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, once complained to a reporter about the “… mythology of America or the United States that we were fed as children. …  Capitalism is a colonial and imperialist economic structure. … Right now, our education system largely teaches[es] white people who they are, and everyone else is a supporting character.”

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For those facing certain death for this country, America was not a myth.  It’s a disgusting statement from an elected official who swore to defend and preserve our constitution and traditions.

As difficult as it was for me to grasp the horror of what happened on Iwo Jima decades before I set foot on the tiny island in 1994, I find it much harder to believe that America’s sacred institutions, for which so many have died, have been entrusted to overt America-haters in the ilk of an AOC.

This Memorial Day, between the cookouts, the beach trips, and the festivities, we should all take some time to get inspiration from “our long dead” to use for the fights we will certainly need to free this country from the absolute insanity it has become.

Whether through politics, art, education, sports, business, or even war, it’s our turn.

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