Vietnam veteran, retired attorney, celebrates a special moment

Former Tempe Marine joins observance of Iwo Jima flag raising 79 years ago

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For Glynn Gilcrease it was a longtime friendship relived. For others it was a salute to one of this country’s most memorable World War II moments: the flag raising of the American flag over Iwo Jima. Gilcrease, retired from the Marine Corps and now from his longtime career as a Tempe attorney, was on hand for a salute to Ira Hayes, one of the six Americans depicted in a ceremony in Sacaton, the Native American community where he was born and grew up. Upon his return from the warfront, Gilcrease played himself in the John Wayne film “Sands of Iwo Jima,” along with two other flag-raisers.

Hayes, also a Marine, died a short time later at the age of 32. Said Gilcrease: “I had the privilege of going to Sacaton for the celebration of life of Ira Hayes. It was the 79th Anniversary of the flag raising of the American Flag over Iwo Jima where United States Marines had achieved a costly victory over Japanese forces which were entrenched in pillboxes. ‘The Japanese waited until Marines had gone ashore and then began firing on them. Many Marines were killed or wounded.”

As to Gilcrease’s early years, he recalls growing up in Weslaco, Texas, the home of Harlon Block, one of the Marines invading the island. Iwo Jima was important as a refueling station for bombers because they did not have enough fuel to reach Japan without refueling. Harlon was the flagraiser with his back turned toward photographer Joe Rosenthal. It was Hayes who hitchhiked all the way from Sacaton to Weslaco, Texas, to assure Belle Block, Harlon’s mother, that he would make sure Harlon was properly identified. And, he did. No car, no problem. No money, no problem. It was an era when committment to friendhips and America got it done. U.S. President Harry Truman ordered the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb. Japan surrendered and thousands of Marine lives were saved.



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