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Monday, October 1st 2007

20:01 (3914 days, 1h, 49min ago)

Heroic Survivors and Their Wartime Recollections

  • Name: Sgt. Grant's wife
  • Hometown: (Andi Grant)
  • Anything you want to add: Please Remember Our Troops Every Day!
Last Friday, I left my job early and was driving home.  I was excited that I would get to relax an extra hour or so and beat all the rush hour traffic.  On my way home, I always pass the Iwo Jima Memorial on Route 9 (located on the town line between New Britain and Newington, Connecticut). 
It's a beautiful, enormous and inspirational memorial statue that you can see from the highway. 

For those not familiar with our history, t
he battle for Iwo Jima took place February 19 - March 26, 1945.  6,821 American servicemen were killed in approximately one month!  The valor and sacrifice of the Marines and Sailors who fought on Iwo Jima is that of true heroes, who we should never forget.

I hadn't stopped there in a few months, and I like to leave their Foundation monetary donations to keep their eternal flame going, so I pulled off the exit and went.  It's a very quiet spot. I go there alone to pay respects and put things in perspective.  I know how important that battle was and all the lives that were lost for us, and when I am there - the world stands still.  Well, at least for me it does.  Above the park, the Route 9 highway is always filled with cars and trucks racing to their destinations, but when I'm at the park, all that's a blur to me.
Anyway, I didn't see any cars when I pulled in to the parking lot, but as I got closer, I saw one small black sedan and was honestly a bit disappointed.  I like to go alone, but the park is open to the public.  I deposited my donation check in the metal donation box and was set to go to my usual bench under a tree when I saw 2 little old men seated on "my" bench. 
I didn't want to bother them, so I nodded to them and sort of smiled and then I headed for another area - a section which is dedicated to the many Navy Corpsmen and Navy Chaplains we lost at Iwo Jima.  After 10 minutes or so, I felt like someone was behind me - and I was right...
One of the gentlemen, Mr. Matava (he later told me his name) asked me if I came to the site often.  I told him I did.  He asked me if I knew about the Iwo Jima battle and about the memorial statue.
I rattled off a lot of what I had read off the monument and from "Flags of Our Fathers" and other books.  I knew the monument was erected to salute the 6,821 Americans who died fighting on the last strategic stronghold before the planned invasion of Japan.  
As for the monument, I told him about the real rocks taken from the mountain summit at Iwo Jima that the bronze soldiers were standing on; about the actual sand from the landing beach that was mixed into the concrete base; about the gas which keeps the flame lit 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, as a reminder of the sacrifices made by all those who defended freedom during the second World War; and I told him about the time capsule which is supposed to be opened in the year 2045, etc.
He seemed impressed that I knew so much, but then again, I have learned a lot by going there. Then he told me that he was one of the original 17 builders of the monument and that he is an Iwo Jima Survivor.  Mr. Matava (now age 87) lost his younger 18-year-old brother, Edward Matava, at Iwo Jima and he showed me the memorial stone for Edward that he had personally laid in the ground years ago.
I told him I normally sit on the granite bench under the tree and Mr. Matava said he had erected that bench in memory of his wife who died 26 years ago. I didn't know if I should be sad or happy that I always choose that bench to sit on each time I come.  Nonetheless, I think he was pleased to hear that I always chose that bench.
Then the other little man joined our conversation.  His name was Fred or Frank Cifaldi (or something like that) - he was also in his late 80's and was one of the builders.  He had hearing aids and weighed about 100 pounds. But they were both sharp and had great posture - as I would expect from such noble and humble Marines...  
I mentioned to them that I had previously written in this web site blog about one of my visits there and they were so ecstatic.  They wanted to know the web site and I gave them my business cards.
I ended up staying there for nearly 2 hours, and didn't get home until well after my normal time, but it was well worth it.
I called my U.S. Marine husband (who has already been mobilized for his second tour for Operation Iraqi Freedom).  I saw on my cell phone's "Missed Calls" that he had called me and I didn't want him to worry about my whereabouts. Later that night, he told me he was inspired by my visit and by the 2 heroes I met.
Sometimes folks need a reminder of who our heroes are and what they gave up for us. I don't need that "shot in the arm" because I remember every day. It was such an honor to meet these 2 men and exchange hugs with them. I had tears in my eyes when I left.
I am telling you this story because we at Give2TheTroops understand about our deployed troops' hardships and sacrifices.
We often tell our troops and their families that we are all in this together, and while we may not be there with them physically, we're with them in heart, mind and soul, during their deployment. 
A few friends begged me to post this story on our blog as they felt that it serves as a reminder for us as to what is important in life and that perhaps it might help people not to take for granted those who laid their lives down for us and our future. 
This 40-foot bronze and granite monument depicts the sacrifice and courage displayed by Americans in one of the greatest battles of our military history.  If you haven't been there, I recommend you go ... help keep the eternal flame going and do me a favor ... save me a seat on "my" bench under the tree. 
Semper Fi.


Posted by Missy:

Thanks for sharing your story...what an awesome experience! And such an honor to meet Iwo Jima survivors, American heroes! Iwo Jima should not be forgotten and I agree that the monument is very inspirational.
Have you seen "Flags of Our Fathers"? It was an incredible movie about Iwo Jima.
Thanks again,
Missy ;)
Monday, October 1st 2007 @ 21:28 (3914 days, 0h, 22min ago)

Posted by Joe Garrett:

I think its one of today's major crimes that we are letting these men fade away without getting their stories recorded.In the day of video cameras and instant messages we are letting the sun set on the men and women who saved the world without getting their stories recorded for postarity. Soon the only memories available will be the same as thos of the indian tribes of old. Stories handed down from story tellers to kids second or third hand and after that just vague memories of something happening somewhere in the past. There is already a generation of young people questioning the holocaust and the number of solders who marched in and saved the few that were still alive are shrinking each day. This is NOT a part of history we can afford to let slip into the past without comment. Thank God for these solders,marines,sailors and all the associated people who supported them. I love nothing better than to sit with some of these guys and listen to their stories. Kind of like a child at his uncles knee listening to the stories of lore that uncle could spin. But these are the true stories, the ones that history will forget. It seems we are more concerned with Hitler than we are of the men and women who defeated him and his war mongers.
Tuesday, October 2nd 2007 @ 12:11 (3913 days, 9h, 39min ago)

Posted by Carol Kana:

What a wonderful story. Isn't it amazing what happens when we take time to look around us and meet new people. There are so many wonderful patriotic people in the USA and it is a blessing when we are able to meet real heroes.
Tuesday, October 2nd 2007 @ 12:31 (3913 days, 9h, 19min ago)

Posted by Jeannette Manchester:

Well, Andi, you've done it again and brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful to meet those two American heroes (REAL heroes, not just some overpaid athlete or movie star) and to learn all of those amazing details. Thanks so much for sharing this. Love - J
Tuesday, October 23rd 2007 @ 12:12 (3892 days, 9h, 38min ago)

Posted by John T.Patterson:

I read your post and I was touched by it!!
Have you ever read "Flags of Our Fathers"by James Bradley?? His Father was one of the Marines who raised the Flag on Iwo Jima.
It also became the popular movie directed by Clint Eastwood.
May God Bless Those Who Served Bravely;Honorably and Loyally!!
John T.Patterson; Mansfield,Texas.
Uncle of Private Kolbe L.Martin,US Army,Kirkuk,Iraq and Specialist Christopher Kitchens,US Army,Fort Hood,Texas.:)
Saturday, November 3rd 2007 @ 20:00 (3881 days, 1h, 51min ago)

Posted by Judith Bitler:

Andi, This is the first time I have been on this web site. I was so taken by your experience at the Iwo Jima Memorial. How moving and certainly not an accident. My family has a special connection to this battle. Our Uncle, Ralph "Iggy" Ignatowski was captured and tortured by the enemy. He was the best friend of "Doc" Bradley. We have read the book, seen the movie and met with James Bradley. My mother, Ralph's sister, is residing in Wisc. and is 94 yrs. old. My siblings,(5) were only told that uncle Ralph was killed during the war. Most of us were either not born or too young to understand what had happened. If not for Mr. Bradleys book, Flags of Our Fathers, we may never have known the truth. My grandmother was unable to talk about it and whether she was given the full extent of her son's death we will never know.
My sister-in-law worked with a gal named Brenda Moreno who is an adult volunteer with the organization, The Young Marines. She was going to Iwo with the group and she had heard the story of my uncle. She asked if we wanted to have a flag raised on Mt. Suribachi in his honor. We purchased the flag for her to take on her journey. While on the tour Brenda met several Iwo Jima Vets. She told them she had brought a flag to raise for a fallen Marine. He asked her who it was and when she told him he began to talk about "Iggy". One of the Navajo code talkers present also remembered hearing the story of Iggy and they asked if they could raise the flag in his honor.The four code talkers walked to the top of Mt. Suribachi raised the flag and as Brenda related to me "It caught a breeze and snapped in the wind, brought it down and folded it properly. The next day she interviewed Maj. Gen.Fred Haynes a member of the Landing Team 228. He began to tell them the story of a Marine who was tortured and killed in action on Iwo Jima. Brenda said "I had never heard the name Ralph Ignatowski", beore she met me,"Now I will never forget it or the sacrifice he made for his country."
Tuesday, November 13th 2007 @ 14:42 (3871 days, 6h, 8min ago)

Posted by John Fredericks:

Excellent and touching blog story.
Wednesday, November 14th 2007 @ 11:42 (3870 days, 9h, 9min ago)

Posted by Just another Marine Mother:

Thank you for sharing your Iwo Jima story, it touched my heart and my spirit. Although I too am constantly reminded of the sacrifices made yesterday today and those to be made tomorrow. I still want my troops to know I love them and honor them for what they are doing. Great story thanks for the tears and the memories.:)
Wednesday, November 14th 2007 @ 15:08 (3870 days, 5h, 42min ago)

Posted by Ronda Jackson:

Great story! I'm a daughter of a 22yr USMC Vet who did 44 mo. in Vietnam and wife to a USMC Somalia Vet. I understand the meaning of we will never forget. My husband an I make it a point to THANK all Marines we see with a hat or shirt on. You can just tell by the way they carry themselves who they are. Once a Marine always a Marine. One always comes to mind never caught his name but Vet's Day 2001 at a diner we say a Retired Marine at a table with his wife as we passed by his table we excused ourselves and Thanked him for his service and wished him a Happy Veterans Day. we sat down and ate breakfast. When he and his wife got up to leave he came to our table with tears in his eyes and thanked us...he said no one in all his life had ever thanked him for his service...Lets not let our Marines (an all other services) ever feel that way again!!! Lets be the voices that are heard LOUD and CLEAR..WE SUPPORT OUR MARINES PAST,PRESENT,FUTURE...This USMC Families prayers are with you..
Monday, December 17th 2007 @ 0:36 (3837 days, 20h, 15min ago)

Posted by Betty Pannell:

What a wonderful story. I had tears in my eyes. There are so many untold stories out there. Please pass them on, if you have any:)
Wednesday, December 19th 2007 @ 17:08 (3835 days, 3h, 42min ago)

Posted by Marianne Mihalyo:

Andi, I found your web site by accident but am so glad I did, I have been volunteering for the Iwo Jima Survivors for 12 years and know the men you have mentioned. Although I have no connection to the battle or marines, they have touched my life and so that is why I help them. Your story was touching and I hope more people get to read it and become involved with the Survivors or/and your organization. I hope we can make contact. Keep up the good work.
Friday, December 21st 2007 @ 19:16 (3833 days, 1h, 34min ago)

Posted by Brenda Falusi:

Thanks for sharing the touching story. I was at the dedication of the Memorial and met many heros that day. Thanks for sharing more stories.
Wednesday, January 2nd 2008 @ 17:29 (3821 days, 3h, 21min ago)

Posted by Linda Broady:

Your meeting with the Iwo Jima Vet. made me cry. My father by the grace of God came home from Iwo Jima where he was with the Second Armored Amphibian Battation. He wont talk much about serving on Iwo Jima but I think it is so important for my children and grandchildren know what a sacrifice these soldiers gave for them.I pray no one every forgets them.:)
Thursday, January 22nd 2009 @ 16:04 (3435 days, 4h, 46min ago)

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