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Iwo Jima vet says, ‘That’s all we were — just boys’

Times West Virginian photo by Emily Gallagher A petty officer consoles World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Holtz as he wipes tears from his eye in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial’s iconic statue based on a picture from Iwo Jima. Holtz served on Iwo Jima, and Saturday was the first time he’d seen the statue.
Times West Virginian photo by Emily Gallagher
A petty officer consoles World War II U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charles Holtz as he wipes tears from his eye in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial’s iconic statue based on a picture from Iwo Jima. Holtz served on Iwo Jima, and Saturday was the first time he’d seen the statue.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even the rain couldn’t stop Charles Holtz.

As one of several U.S. Marine Corps veterans who traveled to Washington, D.C., last Saturday during the Clarksburg Honor Flight, Holtz was determined to see the Marine Corps War Memorial for the first time in his life.

The memorial features one of the most famous incidents of World War II, depicting six servicemen who raised the second U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The massive statue is based on the iconic photograph taken on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.

Due to the weather Saturday, only Marine Corps veterans were allowed to get off the buses when the Honor Flight group arrived at the memorial.

It was an emotional moment for Holtz.

As the Clarksburg resident, who served on Iwo Jima, made his way to the statue to pose for a picture with other Marines, he realized that where he was standing at that moment — about 30 feet from the statue — was approximately the same distance he had been when the original picture was taken in 1945.

Holtz then began to cry.

“I was there,” he said. “I was on Iwo Jima. I was there when the original picture was taken.”

Memories of Iwo Jima began coming back to Holtz during Saturday’s visit to the memorial.

“I was just recalling all the things that happened,” he said. “So many of us got hurt.”

Holtz said he was just a kid when he served. He remembered how his family felt about him going to war.

“I was a little past 18 years old,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive today, and I thank God for that. I also thank God for my mom and dad, who prayed for me because they knew what I was in to.”

Looking at the statue, Holtz remembered two of the six servicemen he knew who were in the 1945 picture raising the American flag.

“It’s sad to think of all the people we lost there. Some of them were just boys,” he said. “That’s all we were — just boys.”

The flashbacks of serving in World War II still haunt Holtz at the age of 89…

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