As far back as Biblical times, memorials have been built for remembrance. Much to the chagrin of my aunt, who was a history teacher, I didn’t embrace history. Too many dry facts to remember and not enough intrigue in the story. Through time, however, I have come to appreciate going to memorials and learning a little bit of history along the way.
Ira Hayes, a Pima Native American who would have preferred to be anonymous, was one of the six Marines who helped raise the second flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima during WWII. To commemorate the flag raising and to remember the other Marines who took over the island from the Japanese, the Pima Indians have held a yearly memorial since 1946 on the Gila Indian Reservation in Sacaton, AZ.
During my visit, I asked people why they were there and what it meant to them. The answers they gave were far beyond my expectations. One couple took the time to explain about relatives who have served in various wars, even as far back as the Spanish-American War, and what they had accomplished. They came this year because the memory of their son is all they have now, and it’s their way to show honor to those who gave their lives.
To a serviceman’s wife, it was a way to support her husband, to show respect, and to remind people that there was a time when Native Americans joined the military even when they didn’t yet have voting rights.
One Veteran comes to see the parade and remember the history. “This memorial reminds me of the small town I came from,” he said. “It brings me back to my roots.”
“We come to keep the memory alive,” said a disheartened Veteran after noting the dwindling attendance.
Retired veterans commented that memorials like this should bring to the forefront what really happened, how ugly war is, and to show the public why they should honor and respect our military.
The time spent in conversations with different people is precious and their stories are well worth hearing. The Iwo Jima Memorial is a place to meet and see Iwo Jima survivors, Navajo Code talkers, a 102-year-old woman who served in the Women’s Army Corps, a Medal of Honor recipient, other native peoples, along with many other veterans and military personnel from America and other countries. It’s one way to bring history alive, while developing new connections about how historical events happened.
“Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” ~ Josh 4:19-24