Dozens of veterans who fought at Iwo Jima gathered at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, Thursday to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle.
“There were a lot of sacrifices made and young lives that could never have a chance to live like I did,” Navy veteran Ron "Rondo" Scharfe said.
He was a 16-year-old sailor who lied about his age to enlist. He is still haunted by the fact that he survived and so many of his friends didn't.
“Last night I had flashbacks again and I'm standing over the grave of Frank and Nick, a couple of the guys that I know that died there, and I tell them, ‘Frank, why don't you come up and live the life that I’ve lived for the past 70 years?’” Scharfe said.
American troops landed on Iwo Jima Feb. 19, 1945. More than 70,000 Marines battled for 36 days. Almost a third of all the Marines killed in World War II died at Iwo Jima
“I was 23 years old at that time,” Gen. Larry Snowden said. “Didn't expect to see my 25th birthday, really.”
He was a rifle company captain and part of the first wave of Marines.
“We were sitting ducks in the open,” he said. “Very simply, that’s why we had 2,000 casualties on the first day that we were there, but that didn't stop us.”
The U.S. victory on the tiny island about 600 miles from Japan was celebrated through the iconic photograph of the American flag being raised.
Survivors of that battle gather at the memorial every year to honor their fallen brothers.