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Iwo Jima Survivors Gather in Wichita Falls

It's considered one of the most important battles of World War II, and it was made famous by one of the most iconic military photos of all time.<br> Almost 70 years ago, around 80,000 U.S. troops fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima, and this weekend some of the survivors of that battle are in Wichita Falls for an annual reunion.
The Battle of Iwo Jima began 67 years ago, in February 1945.

The 8-square-mile island saw some of the fiercest fighting of World War II, and was a key position in the U.S. campaign against Japan.

"That was the first Japanese territory that we actually took away from the Japanese," explained Jack Lavy, "Up to that time the Japanese had invaded various islands and taken them themselves."

After the war ended, many of the soldiers found it difficult to get back to a normal life.

"It took awhile to get adjusted to coming back, but we came back proud," explained Lieutenant JG Cy Young, an Iwo Jima veteran, "because we had won what we went after and everybody felt good about that but we were sad for the ones that were lost."

47 years after the battle ended, Cy Young created the Iwo Jima Survivors Association of Texas.

Young said he did it so the men who lived through the fighting could come together every year, swap stories, and remember why they fought.

This weekend marks the 20th year of the reunion.

"They love coming back together," said Lavy, who is one of the coordinators of the reunion,"there were so many of them in the battle, that until they came to the reunion one time, they didn't know each other.

"They've made really good friends," Lavy continued, "and they look forward to coming back and visiting with each other."

Not only do these heroes enjoy socializing, but the reunion has also become a family event of sorts.

"It's meant a lot to a lot of people," said Young, "I see every year more grand kids coming, and some great-grand kids are coming. There's a bunch of them here now."

And every opportunity Young gets to talk to kids about the war, he encourages them to learn more about the history of their country.

"I think if they really study history, and what caused the battles to start with," said Young, "I think they'll all work together to help prevent another war."

Planning for next year's Iwo Jima Survivors Reunion is already underway. It will take place February 15th-18th.
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