There are dates with obvious significance. Feb. 19 is not one of them, but maybe it should be.
Feb. 19, 1945, U.S. Marines landed on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima. The small island, about 10 square miles, was vital to an anticipated American invasion of Japan that would end World War II.
When U.S. Marines finally secured the island on March 16, they had 6,891 dead and more than 18,000 wounded. The casualty rate among Marines on Iwo Jima was a staggering 22 percent. All but 212 of the 22,000 Japanese defenders on the island died.
Ray Tolar of Ticonderoga remembers Feb. 19. A Marine, he was there in 1945 and has made a point of marking the anniversary ever since.
“On Memorial Day we raise the flag and salute,” Tolar said. “But we should do more. We should remember the sacrifices of Americans every day.
“Mark Feb. 19 on your calendar and, if you will, give thought to this meager reminder,” he said. “A degree of sorrow will be felt in your heart as well as a tremendous sense of pride for being an American and what it stands for. Semper Fi.
“For me this is a cause,” Tolar said. “It’s important to remember what freedom costs, to remember those who have died.”
After three days of fighting Marines captured Mount Suribachi, the island’s highest point. There Marines raised an American flag, a moment that became famous thanks to a photo shown around the world.
Many assumed the flag raising was a symbol of victory. It was really just the start.
That was 68 years ago. In the years since American men and women have continued to sacrifice.
We received a painful reminder of those sacrifices when Staff Sgt. Venne, age 29, of Port Henry was killed in Paktiya Province, Afghanistan, last November.