IWO TO, Japan -- The Government of Japan and the U.S. Marine Corps conducted the Reunion of Honor ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Iwo Jima March 19 at Iwo To, formerly known as Iwo Jima.
During the 69th commemoration, Comandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, Japanese and U.S. veterans, distinguished visitors, Marines and sailors from III Marine Expeditionary Force and leaders from both nations paid respect to those who fought and those who lost their lives during the battle.
Every year to commemorate the battle of Iwo Jima, the Iwo Jima Association invites veterans of the battle, along with other interested guests, to the battle site on the island. The guests, numbering 500-600, fly in and out on the same day. They disembark the aircraft, are shuttled to the ceremony site, conduct the ceremony, and have time to reflect on their memories on the island.
Some guests walk the beaches or climb to Mt. Suribachi - where the now famous photo by Joe Rosenthal was taken of the Iwo Jima flag raising. The Marine Corps supports the event with the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band, officials and logistics.
Japanese veterans of the war also attend the event, along with their guests. The Japanese band and Japanese defense officials took part in the American ceremony. Veterans from both sides reunite and have a chance to share memories. Every year is special because of the Iwo Veterans that are able to make it to the event, which is something that won't be able to continue much longer.