November 11, 2018 10:57 PM
(ABC 6 News) -- 92-year-old Ernest Benesh witnessed one of the most iconic photos in American history, while he was serving in the Marines during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
There were two American flags raised on top of Mount Suribachi on February 23rd, 1945, just a few days after the battle began. Ernie witnessed the first one.
The second was with a larger replacement flag, and that moment is depicted in the famous photo.
“We thought the war was over. We thought that they gave up, but that was just the beginning,” said Ernie.
The days that followed were horrific.
“The stench of the island was terrible, and the flies were terrible,” said Ernie.
In 36 days of fighting on the island, nearly 7,000 U.S Marines were killed, and another 20,000 wounded.
“I was really lucky in a sense,” said Ernie.
Ernie fought through the end of the battle.
Now, more than 70 years after Ernie returned home, he is greeted by a mural commemorating the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima.
On Veterans Day, a silhouette of the photo was dedicated at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Freeborn County where Ernie was born and raised.
Commander of the Glenville American Legion Bob Knutson said the mural was a chance to keep history alive.
“We need to keep that in the forefront of everybody, so they know what people gave up so they could have the freedoms they have today,” said Bob.
For Ernie—to have this moment engraved, not just in his memory, but on a mural in his hometown made for a veterans day, he will not forget.
“It’s kind of my favorite. I’ll tell you, that was amazing,” said Ernie.
Created: November 11, 2018 10:57 PM
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