Local Veteran Attends 5th Marine Reunion
Last year the Veterans Administration estimated veterans of World War II were dying at a rate of nearly 500 a day. As a result, of the some 16 million Americans who served in World War II only about 850,000 remained. Last month a group of 20 members of the 5th Marine Division Association met in Texas as a plaque was unveiled at the National Museum of the Pacific War. Among those combat veterans was a local retired Marine, attending his first such reunion.
The Veterans Day edition of the CCTD documented the service of Sam Jones, of Piggott, which included combat duty in some of the more famous, or infamous, battles in the history of the Marines. This week Jones shares the story of his trip to the reunion, and how he and other veterans enjoyed a truly unique experience.
"The trip started with my son, Sammy, and his wife Maggie, driving out from 29 Palms, Calif., to pick up me and my daughter, Barbara, and take us to San Antonio," Jones offered. The occasion was the annual reunion of the 5th Marine Division Association, held in the Holiday Inn Downtown Market Square in San Antonio.
"While we were there they loaded us up on buses and we rode about an hour-and-a-half to the National Museum of the Pacific War, located in Fredericksburg," he explained. "Fredericksburg is the hometown of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who commanded all naval forces in the Pacific, which included the U.S. Marines who were serving in the area during World War II."
At the museum a plaque was unveiled on their wall of honor, recognizing the 5th Marine Division.
"The 5th Marine Division was one of the three Marine divisions that participated in the 36-day battle for Iwo Jima," Jones adds. "Of course, that battle is known as the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history as there were over 23,000 casualties and over 6,000 killed in action."
Following the ceremony the group of 20 veterans of the Marines visited the museum.
"It's just full of relics from the Pacific War, and a lot of people go there," Jones said. "Well, it didn't take long before some of the visitors realized that a bunch of old "relics" were walking around amongst them. And, when they were told that we were survivors of the 1945 battle for Iwo Jima they wanted pictures of us."
He reports the group of veterans were rounded-up and sent to a large room near the entrance.
"The room filled up with people with cameras taking our picture, and then they started asking for autographs," he added with a smile. "I'd never had anyone ask me for my autograph before."
Jones indicated he had no idea how many books he signed for the visitors, adding "we Iwo Jima survivors were celebrities, at least for a little while."
The group later enjoyed a luncheon at a nearby restaurant, with about 70 people on hand including the 20 survivors. The following day the reunion members took part in a breakfast, and Jones and his family took the opportunity to visit the famous San Antonio Riverwalk.
During the reuion Jones had the chance to visit with at least one member of the same infantry company he had served in on Iwo Jima, although he noted the man had little memory of the battle.
"They were a pretty old bunch of guys," he offered with a laugh. "I'm 91 and I'm one of the younger ones, there sure were a lot of wheelchairs, canes and such."
At the banquet that evening the keynote speaker was Marine Brigadier General M.F. Fahey, representing the Commandant of the Marine Corps. During the evening members of the group also posed for photos, and had the chance to visit following the banquet.