From serving the country overseas to offering leadership and guidance to young individuals, the stories related by Don Graves told those gathered Friday a little bit of his life story and a lot about our own history.
Graves spoke at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Aug. 5 to a full crowd of residents. The Lions club of Prosper sponsored the event, dubbed “An opportunity to experience ‘Living History’ of The Greatest Generation.” Graves is a U.S. veteran of World War II who served for more than 50 years. Despite all he has seen, Graves has always found some way to keep an optimistic outlook on life. While in combat he utilized his dreams of being a singer and performer to lighten the spirits of his team during one of the most destructive battles to ever take place. In his speech Friday, Graves put a genuine, positive spin to all the chaos that surrounded him, remembering all the while it was for the greater good.
Graves was one of the thousands of Marines to land at Iwo Jima in 1945 as a 19-year-old man. With his team he advanced up onto the dusty black sands of Iwo Jima and within minutes they were under attack by the Japanese.
“I lay on that sand and all of my buddies are getting shot. One kid crawled to me and said ‘help me, help me’ and you can’t do it you’re supposed to go on,” said Graves. “We kept on crawling and every time they sniped us we backed down in the sand.”
All the way up on Mount Suribachi, Graves, along with the rest of the 5th Division of the , were bombarded with bombs and firearms.
After going into depth about his experience in the battle and his time during the war, the WWII veteran showed a softer side, stating he was a fan of the arts and to this day still uses his voice as a way of therapy and comfort when it comes to dealing with the PTSD from the battle front. The 36-day battle resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties. Now, nearly 75 years later, Graves has yet to forget the men and women who served by his side and lost their lives for their country. He returned to Iwo Jima in 2013 with 15 other soldiers to visit the island in memory of their battle. He entered into the in 1942 as a 17-year-old boy and now nearly 70 years later stands as a WWII hero and a prime example of “the Greatest Generation.
“We fought a tough battle, one of the worst, and we beat them,” said Graves, “and the kind of kids we were is an example for kids today to learn from.”
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