Although I have tons of posts to make about Tokyo, I really wanted to first share about Ben’s recent work trip to Iwo Jima, the photos he took are amazing! Unfortunately (and in true military fashion) he found out that he would be going to this training operation last minute and it just so happened to coincide with our family trip to Tokyo! While we were obviously very bummed, we were also grateful that Ben would have the once in a lifetime opportunity to go to Iwo Jima and be there to commemorate the 73rd anniversary of the battle. Ben would also be the Officer in Charge for the 3rd Medical Battalion detachment which is a pretty incredible/unusual opportunity for a Supply Officer! The Marine Corps is terrible at timing, but when it’s for an opportunity like this it’s worth the annoyance.
One of the most interesting sites Ben saw on Iwo Jima were the abandoned military ships left behind on the beaches. They’re now partially submerged in the black sand and have severely rusted due to 73 years of exposure to the elements.
Iwo Jima is notorious for its’ black sand beaches which are caused by volcanic activity. It’s tradition for Marines to take a bit of this sacred black sand home and store it in a bottle that they find on the beach. Ben came home with both plenty of sand and a glass bottle that he picked up on the beach so we are excited to preserve and display it!
A very little known fact about Iwo Jimas beaches is that the sand here rises by a foot each year. That means that the beach is now 70+ feet higher than it was during the Battle of Iwo Jima. It’d be impossible for the marines to collect all of its’ famous black sand when it’s constantly increasing!
There are all sorts of abandoned vehicles on the island and below is one of the many tanks that were left behind. It’s also fairly common to come across artillery, weapons, and sadly remains on this island; it’s completely covered with wartime artifacts which could be one of the reasons why this island is heavily restricted to travel to. Aside from the Marines and Japanese construction workers who work there, only a few tour groups visit the island every year and they are insanely expensive.
During the actual ceremony, Ben was one of a few Marines who got to stand at the Iwo Jima Memorial which just so happened to be during a beautiful sun rise. The procession of Marines/veterans/visitors ended at this memorial which meant Ben got to welcome the ceremony at the top of Mount Suribachi. He said that it was surreal being on top of the mountain in such peace and quiet when on that day 73 years ago thousands of US troops were landing on these beaches to fight in one of the bloodiest, fiercest battles of WWII in the Pacific theater.
On the day of the ceremony Ben was able to talk to several Iwo Jima veterans, one of which was a medal of honor winner. Sadly, as time goes one fewer and fewer WWII veterans make it to this event (WWII veterans are now in their 90s) so Ben was fortunate that he was able to meet these men.
Mount Suribachi, where Marines raised the American flag (I included the iconic photo of the flag raising taken by Joe Rosenthal below), is in the background behind my cheesin’ husband. Suribachi actually means “cone shaped mountain” in Japanese so it literally translates into Mountain Cone Shaped Mountain... I think I’ll continue to call it Mount Suribachi though!
Not only am I thankful for the incredible opportunities that Ben continues to get during his Marine Corps career, but I’m also always grateful for the sacrifices our Marines, both past and present, have made for our country. Thanks for reading!
We're Kara, Ben and baby Zoe also known as the Lesniaks. We’re a Marine Corps family currently stationed in Yorktown, Virginia after a three year tour in Okinawa, Japan. Enjoy our adventures, travels, photos, thoughts, and life together!
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