Monday, February 04, 2008

Carrying Forward a Tradition

January 29, 2008 saw the passing of another man that Tom Brokaw referred to as 'the Greatest Generation.'

Raymond Jacobs was born in Bridgeport, Conn. He enlisted in the United States Marines in 1943 and found himself on a fly-speck of volcanic hell called Iwo Jima. It was at Iwo that Marine rifleman Jacobs', with radio on his back, would intersect with an important piece of American history - the raising of the flags on top of Suribachi, the volcanic mountain that birthed and dominated the whole island.

Jacobs was possibly the last surviving flag raiser, hence his niche in history. Some have identified the radioman in the pictures as Gene Mitchell who died in 1987. The editor of Leatherneck magazine says there are other images on the same roll that show full face shots of Jacobs. The last known flag raiser was Chuck Lindberg, who participated in the first raising, and he died last year.

The flags at Iwo Jima have been mired in controversy before, when it was thought Hank Hansen was one of the six who raised the second flag when in fact it had been Harlon Block. It took Ira Hayes, another flag raiser, to correct that error and for Harlon to get the credit he deserved. Sad truth about Iwo Jima was this, of the six flag raisers of the second flag only three made it off the island alive. - Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley.

Even if later research shows it truly was Gene Mitchell at the first flag raising, Raymond Jacobs' heroism and accomplishments are not dimmed in any way. For on Iwo Jacobs probably left a lot of his friends buried in that black volcanic sand while earning a Purple Heart. Jacobs was re-activated for the Korean War where he served as an instructor. In civilian life, Jacobs has not been a slouch either with a string of firsts within the broadcasting arena. Along the way Jacobs married and is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.

As the last of the World War II Marine veterans report for duty in Heaven, they can rest easy knowing the torch has been passed on. Like Jasmin Gagnon, the great-neice of Rene Gagnon who helped raise the second flat on Iwo Jime, who received the Eagle-Anchor-Globe pin marking she is an honest to goodness Marine on January 11th, 2008. Next stop for this newly hatched Marine is communications school at Twenty-Nine Palms, aka Twenty-Nine Stumps, in California. "It's like this - I've been around Jasmin for 21 years, and when she sets her mind to something, she accomplishes it," her grandfather said. "She's no quitter."

Semper Fi and G_d bless all Marines.

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