Gila River Honors 79th Iwo Jima Flag Raising Anniversary

Velia Moncada

Gila River Indian News


The Gila River Indian Community came together for the first time in four years for the 79th Anniversary Iwo Jima Flag Raising Parade as hundreds of Community members, non-community members, and veterans filled the street corners of the Mathew B. Juan – Ira H. Hayes Veterans Memorial Park on Voak Drive on Feb. 24, in Sacaton.


Veterans from Arizona and throughout the country marched to commemorate the raising of the United States flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima on Mount Suribachi, which took place on Feb. 23, 1945 and captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal in the iconic photo featuring GRIC member and former Marine, the late Ira H. Hayes.


The parade began with a military airshow featuring a B-17 aircraft and many others. Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Lt. Gov. Regina Antone were amongst the first to walk in the parade, which contained three floats to accommodate the Ira H. Hayes family and relatives as Grand Marshals—followed by the float of the honorary Army veteran of the year Lawrence Williams.


As part of fundraising efforts this year, the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Group from Pinal County proudly entered their 1948 Willys Jeep into the parade, an initiative led by Air Force Chaplin Elliot La Beau, a member of DAV. He shared that they aim to raise funds for the DAV, a non-profit group that provides life-changing services to veterans.


As the parade concluded, ceremonies occurred at the Matthew B. Juan – Ira H. Hayes Veterans Memorial Park, where Oscar Urrea, Post 84, welcomed everyone.


Students from the St. Peter’s Indian Mission School sang the national anthem and pledge of allegiance for the flag-raising ceremonies.


Marine veteran Urban Giff, District 6, was selected as a keynote speaker for the Iwo Jima flag-raising parade ceremonies. He said the parade was an opportunity for young people to learn more about themselves and serve the people, “It’s an opportunity for self-improvement,” Giff said.


The Scottish American Military Society Post 1297 Arizona Highlanders conducted a sentimental ceremony honoring past, present, and future military service members.


Veterans placed wreaths on the monuments in the park, honoring all six branches of the military and the American flag.


The events concluded in the afternoon with swarms of veterans and their supporters happy to gather again and be recognized for their efforts and accomplishments as they were a part of the 79th celebration of the Iwo Jima flag-raising parade.