Even the rain couldn’t stop Charles Holtz.
As one of several U.S. Marine Corps veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., last Saturday during the Clarksburg Honor Flight, Holtz was determined to see the Marine Corps War Memorial for the first time in his life.
The memorial features one of the most famous incidents of World War II, depicting six servicemen who raised the second U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The massive statue is based on the iconic photograph taken on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Due to the weather Saturday, only Marine Corps veterans were allowed to get off the buses when the Honor Flight group arrived at the memorial.
It was an emotional moment for Holtz.
As the Clarksburg resident, who served on
Iwo Jima, made his way to the statue to pose for a picture with other Marines, he realized that where he was standing at that moment — about 30 feet from the statue — was approximately the same distance he had been when the original picture was taken in 1945.
Holtz then began to cry.
“I was there,” he said. “I was on Iwo Jima. I was there when the original picture was taken.”
Memories of Iwo Jima began coming back to Holtz during Saturday’s visit to the memorial.
“I was just recalling all the things that happened,” he said. “So many of us got hurt.”
Holtz said he was just a kid when he served. He remembered how his family felt about him going to war.
“I was a little past 18 years old,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive today, and I thank God for that. I also thank God for my mom and dad, who prayed for me because they knew what I was in to.”
Looking at the statue, Holtz remembered two of the six servicemen he knew who were in the 1945 picture raising the American flag.
“It’s sad to think of all the people we lost there. Some of them were just boys,” he said. “That’s all we were — just boys.”
The flashbacks of serving in World War II still haunt Holtz at the age of 89. He said every once in a while, he will have spells of anxiety and get very nervous.
Holtz went into the Marine Corps right out of high school. He was deployed to Japan, serving on Iwo Jima and Saipan.
Holtz said when his unit was preparing to invade Japan when the war ended, he went to Japan, volunteering for demolition duty.
“I helped destroy a lot of their weapons,” Holtz said.
Holtz was one of 92 veterans taken to Washington, D.C., as part of the Clarksburg Honor Flight. Honor Flight Huntington, which is an organization that takes veterans to see their memorial for free, coordinated the flight out of Clarksburg.
Email Emily Gallagher at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @EGallagherTWV.