Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Moving Story...

Six Boys And Thirteen Hands...
> 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. I greatly enjoy
> visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories
> back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.
> On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial This
> memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the
> most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers
> raising
Publish Post
> 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 had 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 people 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 - and it
> was
> so hard that the ones who did make it home never even would talk to their
> families about it.
> (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. It was just boys
> who
> won the battle of Iwo Jima . Boys. Not old men.

> "The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sargeant Mike
> Strank.
> Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the
> "old
> man" because he was so old. He was already 24! When Mike would motivate
> his
> boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill some Japanese' or
> 'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to little boys.
> Instead
> he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers.'"

> "The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian
> from Arizona . Ira Hayes was one who walked off Iwo Jima . He went into the
> White House with my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero.' He
> told
> reporters, 'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the
> island
> with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?' So you take your class at
> school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything
> together.
> Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off
> alive.
> That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes
> carried
> the pain home with him and eventually died dead drunk, face down at the
> age
> of 32.
> (ten years after this picture was taken).

> "The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from
> Hilltop,
> Kentucky . A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told
> me, 'Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop
> General
> Store.
> Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then
> we
> fed them Epsom salts. Those cows crapped all night.' Yes, he was a
> fun-lovin'
> hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the
> telegram
> came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General
> Store.
> A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors
> could hear her scream all night and into the morning. Those neighbors
> lived
> a quarter of a mile away.
> "The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John
> Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin , where I was raised. My dad lived until
> 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's producers
> or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say
> "No,
> I'm sorry,
> sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone
> there, sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back." My dad never fished
> or even went to Canada . Usually, he was sitting there right at the table
> eating his Campbell 's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out
> fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press.
> "You see, like Ira Hayes, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone
> thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a
> monument.

> My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a
> caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And
> when
> boys died in Iwo Jima , they writhed and screamed, without any medication
> or
> help with the pain.

> "When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was
> a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said,
> 'I
> want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who
> did
> not come back. Did NOT come back.'

> "So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima ,
> and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo
> Jima
> in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps My voice is giving
> out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

> Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag
> sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the
> heartfelt
> words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a
> hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero nonetheless.
> We need to remember that God created this vast and glorious world for us
> to live in, freely, but also at great sacrifice.

> Let us never forget from the Revolutionary War to the current War on
> Terrorism and all the wars in-between that sacrifice was made for our
> freedom.
> REMINDER: Everyday that you can wake up free, it's going to be a great
> day.
> PS . One thing I learned while on tour with my 8th grade students in DC
> that
> is not mentioned here is that if you look at the statue very closely and
> count the number of "hands" raising the flag, there are 13. When the man
> who
> made the statue was asked why there were 13, he simply said the 13th hand
> was the hand of God.

> Great story - worth your time - worth every American's time

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