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Marines react to Marine Corps War Memorial restoration

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Iwo Jima Marine Corps MemorialStory by Jim Dresbach

ARLINGTON, Va. – After nearly 60 years serving as a major destination for tourists and service members, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial will receive a multi-million dollar restoration, and some World War II Marines who landed on Iwo Jima reacted to the news that over $5 million will aid in the project.

During an April 29 announcement in front of the famous bronze statue, which stands close to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Wright Gate, the Marines revealed that Washington, D.C., businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein was making a $5.37 million donation to the National Park Foundation to restore the memorial base and the famous statue which was reproduced in bronze from Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s Mount Suribachi American flag-raising photo.

One Marine who was present on Iwo Jima 70 years ago during the battle responded enthusiastically to Rubenstein’s gift. Frank Matthews, 89, was on the south Pacific island for 28 days with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Division, 24th Regiment in 1945. The Marine Corps infantryman flamethrower has followed the news of the contribution and upcoming renovation, and he sees the memorial as one of the integral D.C. stops for tourists, students, veterans and service members.

“I think the memorial is one of the most important things in the city,” said Matthews, who still gives tours and talks at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. “The first thing most school kids do [in Washington, D.C.] is to stop by the White House and the Washington Monument. Then they go to see the memorial.”

Retired Marine Col. Joe Whiddle, a member of the Virginia Marine Corps League, was thrilled with Rubenstein’s generosity.

“This is absolutely fantastic,” Whiddle said of the $5 million contribution. “This is great what this gentleman [Rubenstein] did for the Marines and the city. This shows he certainly cares about the nation. He’s a wonderful patriot.”

At the memorial April 29 when the restoration project was announced, Marine Maj. Gen. Michael R. Regner, staff director at Headquarters Marine Corps, showed the Corps’ gratitude.

“We are grateful for Mr. Rubenstein’s patriotism and generous donation to the National Park Foundation,” Regner said. “The Marine Corps War Memorial stands as a symbol of this grateful nation’s esteem for the honored dead of the U.S. Marine Corps.”

According to the Marine Corps website, the entire initial cost to design and construct the memorial was $850,000 and donations came from the Marines, friends of the Marine Corps and members of the Naval Service. The memorial was dedicated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on Nov. 10, 1954.

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