Marines who fought in Battle of Iwo Jima reunite in Virginia Beach for 66th time

Posted at 5:22 PM, Sep 11, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-12 14:54:59-04

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR)  - Veterans of the 5th Marine Division who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima are in Virginia Beach this weekend to mark their 66th reunion.

Marines and their families began arriving Thursday.

On Friday they toured the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo and took time to share some of their memories with NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.

"It’s very important for us to get together and you know remember the experiences we had and exchange stories. It's therapeutic really," shared Monroe Ozment of Virginia Beach.

George Cattelona of North Carolina remembers being one of the many injured during the intense fighting.

"A hand grenade went off. A piece went into my left shoulder. A piece of shrapnel went into my helmet and turned the helmet completely around. Of course I screamed because it was the metal so hot and I was amazed at the heat it had."

"I was standing on the ship getting ready to go ashore and we saw the flag go up on Suribachi and we knew that the Marines had got up there and put that thing up there," recalled George Boutwell of Alabama.

That moment was forever captured in history through an iconic photograph, though few of the Marines at the time knew how critical the Battle of Iwo Jima would be to the outcome of World War II.

"Of course being young we didn't realize the importance of it. As we grow older we look back on it and realize it was a pretty big event," Ozment stated.

Each year the reunions for the 5th Marine Division grow smaller.

"Unfortunately we're running out. Time is catching up with us and we're passing on very fast," said Boutwell.

However, the bond that was forged on that island in the Pacific Ocean so many years ago remains unbroken.

"I think it's just like a family and that's what we have become. Where you are happy to see them and also surprised," Cattelona stated.