Community Honors Ira H. Hayes’ 100th Birthday
January 20, 2023
On Jan. 12, the Community celebrated the 100th birthday of World War II USMC Veteran Ira Hamilton Hayes, from District 5, where the Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84 hosted the remembrance ceremony at the Mathew B. Juan - Ira H. Hayes - Veterans Memorial Park in Sacaton.
Ira H. Hayes was one of six Marines photographed on Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, in the battle of Iwo Jima, Japan, during World War II. While his service and image remain ingrained in Community history, his legacy continues to inspire the nation 77 years after the historic flag-raising.
“I’m so proud to be here today, to honor Ira H. Hayes because he’s such a prominent figure in this Community,” said Tony McDaniel of the Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84. “In one way or another we’re all related to him through service, family, and at the very least we all respect him with the highest regard.”
The celebration drew a hundred spectators to honor the legacy of Ira H. Hayes and the lasting impact of his service to the country and the Community. While it is smaller than in previous years, this year, McDaniel said it felt “smaller but personal but felt like a family celebration” for everyone.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 paused annual celebrations and gatherings that Post 84 typically holds, so this year was very special considering it was in-person and also commemorated the centennial birthday of Ira Hayes.
St. Peters Indian Mission School students performed traditional O’otham songs and dances for everyone in attendance. Social dances were also part of the performance that allowed everyone to participate, including relatives of Ira H. Hayes.
Augustine Enas, District 1, a nephew of Ira Hayes, was present for the celebration. “As one of the family members of Ira Hayes, we appreciate everyone coming out to celebrate his 100th birthday here today,” said Enas. “I enjoyed having St. Peters come out and share the songs with the Community, it was very special.”
Kevin Whittaker, District 1, another nephew of Ira Hayes said, “I want thank everyone who was present today, from the Post 84 to St. Peters, to come and celebrate my uncle’s 100th birthday today, I truly appreciate how the Community continues to celebrate his memory and hope they continue to celebrate his birthday and memorial.”
As in years past, the celebration featured a 21-gun salute and performance of “Taps” and allowed veterans to pay tribute and salute Hayes’ stature at the Ira H. Hayes/ Iwo Jima Memorial.
And because it was a birthday celebration, it was fitting for everyone in attendance to sing “Happy Birthday” in honor of Ira Hayes.
Buddy Helscel, USMC Veteran, also attended the celebration from his home in Casa Grande. “I came here today because he [Ira Hayes] is a former Marine, and I’m a Marine, so he’s like a brother to me. I really enjoyed myself being here today because everyone in this Community is always friendly.”