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USABS athletes attend 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima

March 04, 2020, 2 p.m. (ET)

USABS athletes attend 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Iwo Jima

By John Rosen
 
Seventy five years ago, U.S. and Japanese forces clashed on the island of Iwo Jima in one of the fiercest and deadliest battles of World War II.70,000 U.S. servicemen fought on Iwo Jima, suffering more than 26,000 casualties and 6,800 killed. The intensity and valor of the fighting was reflected in the fact that 27 U.S. Medals of Honor were awarded, more than in any other single battle in history. A photograph of six marines planting the American flag on the top of Mt. Suribachi became one of the most famous and iconic photos of World War II. Today a bronze statue fashioned from that photograph serves as the US Marine Corps War Memorial at the entrance to Arlington cemetery.

On February 29, 2020, seven USABS veteran Para athletes were invited to Washington, DC to attend the 75th anniversary commemoration of this historic conflict. The gala was staged to honor all surviving service members from that horrific battle.There are approximately 200 - 300 known survivors today, and 55 of them were physically able to register to attend the event. Included among them was the only surviving Medal of Honor winner from the battle. In a few short years there will be none left, and the "Greatest Generation" will be gone forever.

 
Our athletes were honored to be included among the many service members, politicians, and international dignitaries in attendance to celebrate the service of the surviving veterans of Iwo Jima.But they were STUNNED AND ASTONISHED when the Master of Ceremonies began the evening by announcing to the audience of 600+ people that a contingent of wounded warriors, members of the USA Para Bobsled team, were included in the audience, and this was greeted by a standing ovation from all in attendance. What follows are thoughts from some of our Para team athletes and their team leader about the
evening.

"It was an absolute honor and privilege commemorating the Survivors, Missing In Action and Fallen of the Battle of Iwo Jima. As a Marine and Soldier we are taught the values of perseverance, determination, sacrifice and selfless service; and these core values all stem from great battles, conflicts and world wars. This event has completely humbled me. Growing up to the stories of the raising of the flag (as my father is a Marine), as well as from my instructors from Marine Corps ROTC; and then to actually be invited to celebrate the brave Marines is an extremely emotional experience. Thank you for this everlasting memory." - Sarah Frazier-Kim

"What a privilege for us to share a room with the survivors of one of the most pivotal battles in the history of the United States. With hundreds of Veterans and active duty military present, I was impressed by the incredible diversity of the many men and women present who've laid their lives on the line for our freedom. As I reflect on that, I realized the Veterans on the U.S. Para Bobsleigh team reflect that diversity. We are represented in international competition by two African Americans, a Hispanic, a Native American, and a Caucasian; and the team includes two women. It was really moving to watch the team members interact with their fellow Veterans as well as the numerous people who stopped to thank them for their service."- Kim Seevers

"What an honor to be at this event . To be among so many heroes and interact with them will be a highlight in my memory for a long time ... we can't thank them enough for all their sacrifices" -William SSG. Guillermo Castillo (Ret.) Purple Heart Recipient

"To have so many veterans, as well as an Iwo Jima survivor, come up to me and say 'keep pushing,' and being proud of me for bobsledding for the USA - I'm speechless. What an Honor to be in the presence of these men and women. And to be mentioned and applauded from the beginning of the program almost broke me into tears.That feeling I will carry with me the rest of my life." - Frederick Evans

It was truly a night to remember.

I should note that the attendance of these veterans at this event was made possible in part by generous donation from Sheetz, Inc., as well as generous personal contributions of Francis Kirley (Chairman, USABS Foundation Board), Robert Bergbauer (Chairman, USABS Board of Directors), and Mac Riley (Member, USABS Board of Directors) who covered the travel costs of the Para Bobsled team members to attend.