And the tale of the Six Brave Soldiers
I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capital, And the tale of the Six Brave Soldiers and each year I take some special memories back with me.
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.
.This fall’s trip was especially memorable.
This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history —
And the tale 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.”
(James Bradley 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 has since 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, D.C., 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 just wrote a book called “Flags of Our Fathers” which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. 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 generals 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.
(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. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima.