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Thread: The Story of Six Boys

  1. #1
    Skiz's Avatar (_8(I)
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    May 2003
    This came to me in the form of an email from my Dad. It's a very good story, just read it.

    The Story of Six Boys

    Each year I am hired to go to Washington, DC, with the eighth grade class
    from Clinton, WI. where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly
    enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special
    memories back with me. This fall's trip was especially memorable.

    On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This
    memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the
    most famous photographs in history -- that of the six brave soldiers
    raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the island of Iwo
    Jima, Japan, during WW II.

    Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed
    towards the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the
    statue, and as I got closer he asked, "Where are you guys from?"

    I told him that we were from Wisconsin. "Hey, I'm a cheese head, too!
    Come gather around, Cheese heads, and I will tell you a story."

    (James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, DC, to speak at the
    memorial the following day. He was there that night to say good night
    to his dad, who has since passed away. He was just about to leave when he
    saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and
    received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one
    thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in
    Washington,D.C., but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we
    received that night).

    When all had gathered around, he reverently began to speak. Here are his
    words that night:

    "My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on
    that statue, and I just wrote a book called "Flags of Our Fathers" which
    is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story
    of the six boys you see behind me.

    "Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground
    is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in
    the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They
    were off to play another type of game. A game called "War." But it didn't
    turn out to be a game.

    Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't
    say that to gross you out, I say that because there are generals who
    stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys
    need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were 17, 18, and 19 years

    (He pointed to the statue) "You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon
    from New Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this
    photo was taken and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find
    a photograph. ...a photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there
    for protection because he was scared. He was 18 years old. Boys won the
    battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men.

    "The next guy here, the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike
    Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called
    him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike
    would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, 'Let's go kill
    some Japanese' or 'Let's die for our country.' He knew he was talking to
    little boys. Instead he would say, 'You do what I say, and I'll get you
    home to your mothers.'

    "The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona.
    Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with
    my dad. President Truman told him, 'You're a hero.' He told reporters,
    'How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me
    and only 27 of us walked off alive?' So you take your class at school,
    250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything
    together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your
    classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of
    horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of
    32. ...ten years after this picture was taken.

    "The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from
    Hilltop, Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima
    at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was
    dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that
    telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all
    night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

    "The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John
    Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until
    1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite's
    producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little
    kids to say, 'No, I'm sorry, sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada
    fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don't know when he is
    coming back.' My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually, he was
    sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we
    had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to
    the press.

    "You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys
    are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and on a monument. My dad knew
    better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In
    Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died
    in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

    "When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was
    a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said,
    'I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys
    who did not come back. Did NOT come back.'

    "So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima,
    and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo
    Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is
    giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time."

    Suddenly, the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag
    sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the
    heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero.
    Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe, but a hero

    The FST group

  2. The Drawing Room   -   #2
    RPerry's Avatar Synergy BT Rep: Bad Rep
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    NIce thread Skizo, and here's a link to go with your post :

  3. The Drawing Room   -   #3
    sArA's Avatar Ex-Moderatererer
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    Feb 2003

    A good perspective....keeping the true face of war real.

  4. The Drawing Room   -   #4
    bigboab's Avatar Poster BT Rep: +1
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    The real heroes dont talk about it. When ever I hear anyone attempting glorify war, generally politicians who have never been, I think of the George Jones record '50,000 names carved on the wall'. This record IMO depicts all the people affected by the killing.
    The best way to keep a secret:- Tell everyone not to tell anyone.

  5. The Drawing Room   -   #5
    BigBank_Hank's Avatar Move It On Over
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    It always strikes me as funny when guys who did a tour of duty the service come home and love to tell war stories to anyone who’ll listen, a certain senator from Massachusetts comes to mind . The majority of the veterans who return from duty rarely speak about their encounters during war, and when they do say something they just about all say the same thing the real hero’s never came home. In saying that I’m not trying to discredit anyone who served in our military and fought to protect our freedoms.

    Sadly I think that all of the men in the photograph who weren’t killed in action have since passed away.

  6. The Drawing Room   -   #6
    Skiz's Avatar (_8(I)
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Coincidentally, the book that was refered to earlier 'Flags of Our Fathers' has been laying around my office for about six weeks now. Today it came home with me. I read the first chapter while eating lunch and have no doubt that it will be some good reading. It shows the kind of men who fought in WW II. The Greatest Generation they are called and it's true. I don't believe we will ever see a generation like that again.
    Last edited by Skizo; 03-17-2005 at 03:22 AM.

    The FST group


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