RS Twin Cities Brings Past, Future Together;;Last Iwo Jima Flag Raising Veteran remembered and honored by Marines;
By Staff Sgt. J. J. Rodriguez
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | November 09, 2001
RICHFIELD, Minn. --
Marines of recruiting Station Twin Cities honored one of their own in celebration of the Marine Corps' 226th birthday. Not since the four-day battle of Iwo Jima had Charles W. Lindberg seen so many Marines?at least that's what it seemed like inside his small home.
This day however, the invasion was on his house and came in the form of bright lights from camera crews from two local television stations, four Marines from RS Twin Cities and almost a dozen former Marines from his local Marine group The Metro Marines.
"That flabbergasted me. I really enjoyed it. I saw the cake and sword. Never thought anything like that would take place here," he said.
"I wondered what the neighbors thought," he added. "I wasn't expecting that."
At a time when America is losing its veterans from that era at a rate of 1,000 per day, the Marines of twin cities thought bringing the Marine Corps birthday celebration to him would be a worthy thing to do for a fellow Marine who 56 years before gave his all for freedom and the American way of life.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be able to do something like this," said Capt. Bryan T. Horvath, executive officer, Twin Cities Recruiting Station. "It's not every day that we get to honor someone like Mr. Lindberg. It was an educational experience to learn the circumstances behind the raising of the flags in Iwo Jima."
According to Lindberg, there is not a day that goes by without him thinking about his days in the Corps, and half the time he dreams about it.
"I would do it all over again," says the sharp 80-year-old.
The Marines had an image of a drawing by Jim Branscum of Aging in America imprinted on the quarter-sheet cake. The image portrayed Cpl. Lindberg attaching the flag to a Japanese pipe and an image of the original flag raising in the background, and an elder Lindberg in the foreground dividing the two images.
This humble ceremony, as any other ceremony where you find a small group of Marines, included the reading of 13th Commandant, General John A. Lejeune's message and a message from the current Commandant. It was followed by the cutting of the cake with a noncommissioned officer sword (fitting since Lindberg?s last rank was corporal).
"It makes me kind of homesick (when visited by active duty Marines). It brings back a lot of memories," confesses the former flamethrower.
Lindberg, or "Chuck" to those who know him, is the last surviving veteran of the two flag raisings atop Mount Suribachi on Feb 23, 1945. Leatherneck photographer Sgt. Lou Lowery took the very first flag-raising picture, and AP Photographer Joe Rosenthal took the one that received all the glory and recognition.
"If it hadn't been for the first there would never have been a second," Lindberg is quick to point out.
"It's a day I will never forget," says Lindberg every time he tells the story of the flag raising and the battle. "The troops started cheering, and some were crying?"
The Marine Corps was only 169 years old when a young Lindberg helped bring Old Glory up on that unforgiving rock. He remembers how they had to advance inch-by-inch up the treacherous volcanic mountain.
Included in the active duty Marine group from the recruiting station, was Pvt. Paul Schmotter, a Marine on boot leave at the West Saint Paul permanent contact station.
Schmotter turned 19 today and commented, "Who could not imagine a better birthday present than meeting Lindberg and being recognized as the youngest Marine present?
"This is something I will remember for the rest of my life, Schmotter said.
This was perhaps the best example of a cake cutting ceremony that symbolizes the passing on of tradition from Marines of days gone by to those young Marines who are currently serving today.
"I hate being the oldest Marine. It always catches me off guard. It shows I'm getting old," chuckles Lindberg.
Schmotter was about the same age as Chuck's fellow Marines at Iwo Jima. Approximately 6,800 servicemen died on that battlefield; 6,000 were Marines. This was more than the Normandy invasion the year before and the most since Gettysburg in the Civil War.
"I lost 10 to 15 friends there," he recalls with watery eyes.
On February 21 this year, 56 years after the historical event, Lindberg received an official letter of recognition and commendation from General J. L. Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Commandant thanked him for his heroic efforts as a combat veteran.
Lindberg will continue to speak to anyone who will let him about the two flag raisings and the history behind the two pictures every chance he gets.
Lindberg sees no difference between the Marines of World War II and today?s Marines.
"I think they are doing a good job. Seems to me they?re anxious to go (to combat) just like we were then. I think the Esprit de Corps is there," he said.