Iwo Jima veterans from Massachusetts to Hawaii are set to converge on Camp Pendleton for a reunion Feb. 15-19.
The three-day event commemorating the 72nd anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima is expected to draw 500 guests including about 50 of the World War II battle’s veterans and is billed as the largest such gathering.
The reunion is organized by the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee in San Diego and Iwo Jima Association of America based in Quantico, Va. The two groups usually hold their reunions separately on the west and east coasts, but this year the Iwo Jima Association of America is joining the reunion at Camp Pendleton.
“The purpose of the event is to reconnect with friends but most important to remember their comrades who fell taking that island,” said registration chairwoman Gail Chatfield, whose late father fought in Iwo Jima.
A memorial service will be held Feb. 18 overlooking the Pacific Ocean with the 11th Marines conducting a 21-cannon salute and taps to honor fallen comrades. A wreath will be laid at the Iwo Jima Memorial on base.
Following the tribute, a reunion banquet will be held at the base’s Pacific View Events Center, including a concert by the 1st Marine Division Band, presentation of colors and Iwo Jima memorabilia displays along with speakers, call to order by banquet chairman, retired Marine Master Sgt. Bill Behana, silent auction and the late Col. Walter Ridlon’s “Empty Chair” tribute.
Highlights include the traditional cake-cutting ceremony led by the oldest and youngest Marine in the room. For the third year in a row, the oldest veteran is 99-year-old retired Marine Lt. Col. Paul McLellan, a Navy Cross recipient.
A tour of Camp Pendleton is set for Feb. 16 and a tour of military sites around San Diego is Feb. 17. The Iwo Jima Association of America Symposium and Lunch is Feb. 18 addressing events leading to WWII and Iwo Jima, the actual battle and aftermath to current times.
Banquet tickets cost $40; deadline is Feb. 8. No tickets at door. For information and tickets for other reunion events, visit www.iwojimareunion.com
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