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Vets honored by Albia students - Albia Newspapers: News

Vets honored by Albia students

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Posted: Friday, November 10, 2017 9:06 am | Updated: 9:25 am, Fri Nov 10, 2017.

The Albia Community Junior High and High School held another impressive Veteran’s Day observance Tuesday. You couldn’t have picked a more traditional school lunch of chili and homemade cinnamon rolls for the many veterans and family members who dined in the high school library.

Following the luncheon, veterans filed into the A Gym joined by students from the junior high and high school, faculty, administration and a number of community members.

Ninety-four-year-old Howard Greiner, a WWII P.O.W., who had recently returned from an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., was in attendance, along with other veterans from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars and others who served during peace time.

Guest speaker, Richard Grimes, noted that during WWII over 1,500 Monroe County men served in the military. Today, only 13 remain living.

Members of the ACHS student body took part in the ceremony. Student body vice president, Trent Garver led the Pledge of Allegiance, the ACHS choir performed the National Anthem and Bradley Amante played Taps to conclude the ceremony.

Albia sixth grade teacher and high school cross country coach, Todd Ratliff, a retired Master Sergeant in the Iowa National Guard who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, shared a reading entitled “This is Why I Stand.” The last line of the reading stated, “The American flag flies from the last breath of the veterans who protect it. This is why I stand.”

Grimes, a graduate of Albia Community High School and retired history teacher, gave students a broad understanding of Veteran’s Day and specifically addressed the Feb. 19, 1945 battle for the island of Iwo Jima. Grimes described the sulfer ash island containing strategic airfields, located just 760 miles from Japan. Its capture meant U.S. forces could more easily strike mainland Japan as it prepared for the land invasion of Japan.

The entire island’s length was from Albia to Lovilia, a little over eight miles. He said that 21,000 Marines landed on Iwo Jima thinking most of the Japanese force had been killed or crippled in a relentless bombing attack. They discovered 23,000 Japanese imbedded into the island in tunners and caves.

A total of 7,000 Marines were killed in the five-week battle and all but 200 of the Japanese.

Grimes talked about the heroism displayed during the attack. John Keith Wells planted the first flag on Mount Suribachi, destroyed 25 Japanese emplacements, was wounded, placed aboard a hospital ship, escaped the ship with sulfa and morphine and went back to the fight.

John Willis was a Navy corpsman and a Medal of Honor recipien who caught and threw back eight Japanese hand grenades to protect the men he was attempting to save until a ninth grenade blew up in his hand and he died.

Seventeen-year-old Jack Lucas of Mississippi threw himself on two hand grenades and miraculously survived.

John Basalone of New Jersey, a veteran of Guadalcanal, commandeered two machine guns and held off 3,000 Japanese, receiving the Medal of Honor. He went home to serve on war bond drives, was married and then volunteered to go back into combat, landing at Iwo Jima, guiding tanks through mine fields before he was killed. He is the only Marine to have received the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

Grimes described for students the men who raised the flag at the top of Mount Suribachi, how all but two later died in combat. One was a Czech immigrant, another a French-American, a third a Native American. “Being an American is not where you were born. It is what is in your heart,” Grimes told the students.

He used the Marine Corps motto “Semper Fi,” or “Always Faithful” to encourage students to remain faithful to God, to their family, their friends and to their community. “Believe in the inner goodness of America,” he said. “To be fully faithful is to be your best.”

Jim Keller closed the program with a review of the Welcome Home Soldier Monument, now in its 13th year of construction. He complimented Albia students for their respectfulness of the work of Monroe County veterans and to the American flag and its traditions.

Keller, an avid sport fan, concluded with a statement about the NFL and players kneeling instead of standing to show the proper respect for the flag. A soldier who had lost his leg in combat was projected on the wall. “We stand because he can’t,” said Keller. “I’ll make you this promise,” he said. “I will never desecrate the flag or the National Anthem.”

Perhaps the most moving part of the ceremony happened when students, many grandchildren of the veterans gathered stayed after the assembly to dispense hugs to the vets in attendance.

© 2017 Albia Newspapers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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