Sunday, June 16, 2024

Veteran Voices: Williamsburg’s Iwo Jima Memorial Park

The platform where the monument at Iwo Jima Memorial Park will stand. (Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

Update to a story WYDaily first covered in 2021. 

JAMES CITY COUNTY — A hill on private land has been adorned with patriotic flags to honor military veterans for close to 20 years. Now, it is one step closer to becoming a park that citizens can utilize.

Located at the intersection of Jamestown and Neck-O-Land roads, the Iwo Jima Memorial Park is the dream of Korean War combat veteran Cliff Guertin, founder and land owner, explained Lawrence Waltrip, board member and project manager.

“In talking to Mr. Guertin, he shared a story of being in combat and the loss of life he was witness to. One night, he and his men were being shelled. He said that he told the Lord, if you get me out of here I will look after these guys [military] when I get home. And that born the dream,” stated Waltrip.

Photo courtesy of The Iwo Jima Memorial Park.

Celebrating the Battle at Iwo Jimo, many Americans are familiar with the famous Marine Corps War Memorial statue that pays tribute to a photograph taken of the second flag raised on Mount Suribachi during World War II.

The Iwo Jima Memorial Park, when completed, will host a smaller-scale replica of that famous monument. An ADA-compliant graded path, of just over a mile, will lead visitors up the hill to the statue.

“[One of our volunteer veterans] told me that it was quite a challenge to climb Mount Suribachi where the Iwo Jima battle was fought so, that is why the entrance to the park is at the bottom of the hill. The incline is symbolic to the Marines who fought valiantly to get to the top to capture and raise the American flag,” Waltrip said.

While the park reflects the battle at Mount Suribachi, the goal is to honor all who have served. Guertin has many ties to the United States military. His father served in World War I, while his seven brothers are also military veterans, with one serving at Iwo Jima during World War II.

While Guertin dreamed up the park, this project has become important to many people.  “We consider our veterans to be a national treasure,” said Waltrip.

Trail at Iwo Jima Memorial Park. (Stephanie Sabin/WYDaily)

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the park is being completely funded by private donations and is run by a board of directors. About 80% of the park is completed due to the work of volunteers, stated Waltrip.

In order to finish the project, the statue and granite need to be transported from Georgia and installed. Landscaping, benches and a gazebo are also in the plan. A completion date “all depends on the money” states Waltrip who would ideally like to see it open to the public by Feb. 23 to commemorate the flag-raising.

“We, as a board, have been diligently working on this for three years. Everything has been donated … the money, material and time to make this a reality,” Waltrip continued, “It is a community-driven work in progress.”

Visit the webpage to donate to the Iwo Jima Memorial Park fund and see progress photos.

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