Honoring the Greatest Generation is increasingly the business of generations that have followed.
Looking around at the opening ceremonies of the Iwo Jima Reunion, expanded now to include all veterans of World War II, it was clear that though the ranks of these heroes may be dwindling, stories of their contribution to freedom will live on in the memories of their children and grandchildren.
Tom Price, of Eureka, Mont., was accompanied by his son Barry and 13-year-old grandson Justin Price, of Scottsdale, Ariz., at the reunion opening ceremonies Friday morning. Over the gathering’s 22 years, he has brought, in turn, many other children and grandchildren.
“I came along the first time 10 years ago,” said Barry, who himself is an Army veteran and has two brothers who served in Vietnam. “But it’s a really special thing to have Justin along. The last time Dad saw him was when he was only 2 — this will be a great memory for all of us.”
The elder Price was an 18-year-old sailor serving on a Higgins boat during the Battle of Iwo Jima 68 years ago. He enlisted at 17 but honored his own father’s request that he finish high school before heading to basic training.
“The farthest I’d ever been away from home was about 60 miles. If you count going to Canada (about nine miles north of Eureka), that’s as close as I’d ever been to international travel,” said Tom Price. “For all of us guys from the West, it was a life-changing experience.”
Jeannie Wesley, of Abilene, was attending the reunion with her father, J.B. Magers, of Electra. He was aboard the Higgins boat Saratoga, ferrying Marines to the embattled island and returning with wounded.
She always had known her father served in World War II, but became more interested when a box of memorabilia surfaced during a long-ago family move.
“There were shells he had collected in the Pacific and his ‘equator kit,’ that they got when they crossed,” she said. “Still, he didn’t talk a lot about the battle.”
Barry Price said that like a lot of vets, his dad also was reluctant to talk about Iwo Jima, When Barry was about 15, he began to understand his father’s connection to history.
“It gave me a deeper feeling to know what his involvement was. It was something to be so very proud of,” he said. “And now my son can learn more about it and meet some of these other great men who served.”
Among the special guests introduced at the reunion opening ceremonies were Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams and reunion founder and Bowie native Cy Young, accompanied by his daughter Kay-Lynn Lyon.
The group took a moment to honor the memory of reunion regular Glenn Morgan, who died in December; his son and daughter-in-law, Tom and Sharon Morgan, were in the audience.
Reunion activities, headquartered at the Holiday Inn by the Falls, will continue today with a re-enactment of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima at 10 a.m., which is open to the public. Tickets are required for the All Forces Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Memorial services will be at 9 a.m. Sunday at the hotel.