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2013 Iwo Jima Reunion Comes To Fort Sill

Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams tells the story of Iwo Jima to newly enlisted Marines at Powers Hall in Fort Sill

Fort Sill Marines got a visit from veterans of Iwo Jima as well as Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams on Thursday to share their experiences during their time in service as part of the 2013 Iwo Jima Reunion Tour in Wichita Falls.

The Marines got a chance to talk to the veterans about the tactics and equipment they use today and how the experience of war has evolved over the years.

The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the biggest campaigns in World War Two. The U.S Forces planned to capture the island of Iwo Jima to establish a staging area to attack the Japanese mainland.

Over 6,000 Americans and nearly 22,000 Japanese lost their lives that day fighting for their country and what they believed was right.

J.B Magers loads a Mortar similar to the one he fired in Iwo Jima

J.B. Magers, a veteran of Iwo Jima from Electric, Texas joined the military on his 18th birthday. He shipped out on the USS Sanborn as one of the first wave of sailors who went ashore on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945.

“It wasn’t no beach party, it was raining and the wind was blowing about 40 mph and we had 9 foot surfs,” Magers said. “A lot of our guys didn’t make it, the boat turned over on us and they drowned, we lost nine off our ship and the beach party commander didn’t make it.”

Magers explained that it took nine days to unload the ship he served on and when the ship landed on the beach he and other survivors carried their wounded to the hospitals.

After the war ended Magers was discharged from service in Norman.

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website Williams received the award for risking his life attacking the enemy for four hours under enemy small-arms fire to minimize unit casualties.

When Williams returned to his home in West Virginia he received the highest honor given to any service member: The Medal of Honor.

“I’m not quite sure that the battle itself made a terrific change in my life, I had already been through Guam, so I had one campaign before I went to Iwo Jima,” Williams said. “What changed my life tremendously was being a recipient of (The Medal of Honor). The day that this medal was presented to me by (President Truman), my total life changed, I became a public figure, I became somebody who represented something beyond myself. I represented a lot of other Marines that never got to come home.”

Williams stated that with the soldiers always changing, whether it be they were killed in action or deployed to another location, he never got the chance to learn the names of his fallen comrades. Even though he only knows them by the nicknames given to them, he will never forget the sacrifice they made.

“I wear the medal particularly in honor of two marines that day who were protecting me so the Japanese couldn’t get to me,” Williams said. “Two of them gave their lives giving that protection. So, when I wear it, I always wear it in their honor, not mine.”

Private First Class Stephen Garcia was one of the new Marines that got to sit and listen to Williams tell them his story of the battle of Iwo Jima.

“Listening to him talk, it was a big honor,” Garcia said. “To see someone that’s done the things that I haven’t done I have a huge respect for him, because it if wasn’t for him and people like him, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be here or be a Marine if there weren’t people that fight and do those things. It make me want to do it, it makes me want to join in at a time of war to do the things that they did.”

This was Williams 13th visit to Fort Sill and he states that as long as he is able to, he plans to attend the reunion in Wichita Falls every year.

The letter written by President Truman when he presented Williams with the Medal of Honor can be viewed at http://www.cmohs.org/recipient-detail/3066/williams-hershel-woodrow.php.

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