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Marines Salute Fallen Comrades

Spokane is not Iwo Jima and the patio of the Ag Trade Center is no Mount Suribachi.

But when a group of 1995 Marines raised the American flag to re-create one of World War II’s most famous images, the Marines of 1945 stood and saluted.

Many of the elder Marines, who helped capture that island 50 years ago, held their bright red caps over their hearts, and sang in rough, emotion-cracked voices:

“From the halls of Montezuma….”

Moments later, the color guard - resplendent in navy blue and bright white dress uniforms and moving in perfect cadence - marched off the Floating Stage. James Mac Laren of Temple City, Calif., felt the tears coming.

The tears came partly for the flag, partly for “Taps,” which the bugler played before the flag raising, and partly for the young Marine who had stood at attention for more than an hour, holding a rifle with its bayonet point on the stage and a helmet over the stock.

The rifle and helmet symbolized fallen comrades.

“I just had to go up afterwards and shake his hand, and tell him what a fine job he’d done,” said Mac Laren, who was one of more than 500 members of the 4th Marine Division Association in Spokane for their annual convention.

Fifty years ago, Mac Laren and the rest of the 4th Division were as young as the Marines from Bangor, Wash., Naval Station, who provided the honor guard for the Spokane convention.

They never learned to drill like the Bangor Marines, to march in perfect cadence, to spin their highly polished rifles with shining bayonets in white-gloved hands without so much as a word of command.

“That’s the peacetime Marine Corps,” another veteran of Iwo Jima, Jack Rasmussen of Spokane, said after watching the silent drill team perform. “We didn’t have time for that.”

They trained for war, then they went to war, said Rasmussen who stopped by for the show. He was in the 3rd Marine Division on Iwo Jima.

No problem, Mac Laren said. All Marines are the same.

“For most of us, it’s a case where you don’t know hardly anybody here, but you know that because of what they did, you’re alive,” he said.

The convention wasn’t one of the association’s biggest. Many of the members live in the East or the South, and Spokane is a long trip, said Chaplain Charles Goe.

The association also is losing members as the nation marks the 50th anniversary of World War II.

But with the re-creation of the Iwo Jima flagraising, the Riverfront Park setting and the near-perfect weather, it was surely one of the best, Goe said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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