Iwo Jima vets have 69th reunion on the depot

Iwo Jima vets have 69th reunion on the depot

by Sgt. Walter D. Marino II, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
U.S. Marine Corps

Fifteen Marine Corps veterans received a tour of the depot as well as celebrated the Iwo Jima Veterans 69th Anniversary Reunion with their families here, Feb. 21.

Their reunion aboard the base included a visit to the yellow footprints, a tour of the Command Museum and lunch at the base’s dining facility.

For many it was a nostalgic event that filled the former Marines with esprit de corps.

“What I’ve seen from today’s Marines amazes me and makes me proud,” said retired Gunnery Sgt. Damaso Sutis. “They look so fit and seem to be very intelligent and I’m satisfied knowing they are going to continue our legacy. We started it, but they are going to carry it on. They have the attitude and there is no doubt in my mind. I’m 89 years old, but if I live to see 90 at least I’ll remember I was in the Corps. The Corps is truly a family wherever you are at.”

During their first stop, the veterans were shown where today’s recruits are brought in for processing – the yellow footprints. Drill instructors then explained what the receiving process is like in today’s Marine Corps.

Staff Sgt. Dennis Joy, chief drill instructor, Company B, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, was one of the Marines assisting with any questions the veterans had as he escorted them around the depot.

“I’m absolutely honored to have them come here,” said Joy. “To see the legacy of the Marine Corps and to hear their war stories about Iwo Jima—it’s a privilege. Every generation of Marines has its own legacy. The Marines of World War II left a giant legacy. They are the giants that we try and live like today and it makes me happy to see the legacy continued.”

After the yellow footprints, the veterans entered the depot’s Command Museum and were able to see paintings, weapons and photographs from various battles and eras in Marine Corps history. Their time at the museum also provided a time for veterans to share their war stories with Marines.

Retired Master Sgt. William A. Behana was one such Marine who shared his experience of the battle of Iwo Jima.

“We got in the boats and started moving in for the shore.  They were bombarding the beach at the time. We landed on the beach and I came busting out of the end of the boat and I saw nothing but dead Marines around us. I was on the beach and stuff was really hitting the fan.  I didn’t have anything to dig with so I tore the top off of an ammunition can and scooped a hole on the beach,” said Behana.

Behana explained waves of Marines were supposed to come every five minutes, but no one got on the beach for two hours because they were being hit hard with artillery. By the following day, his unit had set up a regimental headquarters.

“I was there the morning the first flag went up, and I saw the second one also,” said Behana, an El Cajon, Calif., native. “Then after we secured Suribachi, we turned and started north and fought our way all the way up the island.”

After seeing much of the depot, the Iwo Jima veterans concluded their visit with a meal at the depot’s dining facility. There, they were able to get to know and have lunch with many of the Marines stationed aboard the depot.

From the smiles and chuckles it appeared it was a fitting way to end a reunion.

“I think today’s Marines are highly trained, highly educated and they sure have better equipment than we had and I know darn well they have better chow than we had,” said Behana with a laugh.

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