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By Lance Cpl. Richard Blumenstein, MCB Camp ButlerIWO JIMA, Japan (Dec. 28, 2006) -- Sweating,huffing and puffing their way up the paved road that spirals up IwoJima's Mount Suribachi, more than 60 Marines with the 3rd MarineDivision made the trek to one of the most storied battle sites inAmerican military history Dec. 14.
Leaders within the Division's command staff coordinated the trip fortheir Marines to give them a greater understanding of what those whofought on the island endured and accomplished, according to Maj.Christopher J. Galfano, 3rd MarDiv air officer, Headquarters Battalion.
"Warrior reflection is something we need to do as Marines," Galfanosaid. "Marines identify themselves with Iwo Jima. This was anopportunity to give them a greater appreciation for what those Marineswent through back in 1945."
The Marines walked from the airfield in the central part of the islandalong the famous battlegrounds to the southeast, including the infamousinvasion beach where Marines from 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisionsstormed ashore and where many stained the black sands red with theirblood.
Walking the battlegrounds, Marines saw machine-gun nests and caveentrances to a maze of tunnels dug by Japanese defenders years ago inpreparation for the battle.
"It was reported by Marines after the battle that they could hearvoices as they hugged the ground for cover," said Capt. Michael C.Nesbitt, 3rd MarDiv's assistant air officer. "Those were the voices ofJapanese soldiers moving under the ground through the tunnels."
After walking along invasion beach and collecting some of its blackvolcanic ash - a tradition among Marine visitors - the Marines headedto Mount Suribachi on the southeastern tip of the island, whereAssociated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal snapped his famous flagraising picture.
At its highest point, the mountain, an active volcano that last eruptedin 1727, is 354 feet above sea level, and its vertical slope is 80-85degrees in some places. The walk up the mountain was a soberingexperience for many of the Marines as they imagined those who fought tothe top of the steep, heavily defended mountain yard by yard.
"You get a sense of pride coming up the hill," Nesbitt said. "Walkingup Mount Suribachi, you get an understanding of how hard the Marinesfought to take Iwo Jima. When these Marines see movies or pictures ofIwo Jima they're going to say, 'It was every bit as difficult asthat.'"
On the mountain summit, Marines saw a number of memorials payingtribute to both fallen Marines and Japanese defenders, and the viewfrom atop the mountain allowed them to see the entire island.
"I didn't realize the challenge the terrain presented," Galfano said."Pictures and movies don't properly display how hard it was for thoseMarines to move through the island."
For most of the Marines, the trip was their first time setting foot onthe island's hallowed ground where nearly 26,000 Marines were injuredor killed fighting 23,000 Japanese defenders during the 45-day battle.
"There are so many Marines that don't get a chance to do this," saidLance Cpl. Taylor B. Scribner, a data network specialist with thedivision. "This is something I've wanted to see since I joined theMarine Corps."
Nesbitt said the trip was important because it allowed the Marines to reflect on the Corps' warrior ethos.
"While most Marines have heard stories, seen movies or read books aboutthe battle, they won't fully understand the hardships those Marineswent through until they walk up Mount Suribachi," he said.
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