John Bradley was one of the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima. At 15, his granddaughter, Alison, wrote this letter to him:
You’ll see on the envelope there is no address. I sat a long time and wondered where to address it. Heaven? I hope it ends up getting to you.
I’ve been thinking about you lately.
This past holiday, Daddy took us to Washington, D.C., to learn about you.
He told us how as a young, unmarried man you boarded a cramped boat with thousands of other young Marines and shipped off to Iwo Jima to either live or die.
I saw the letter you wrote your mother from Mount Suribachi. You described how filthy you were and how you would give your left arm for a good shower and a clean shave. How did you do it? I’ll never know.
Daddy showed us the original footage of the flagraising in 1945. Over and over we saw you raise that flag.
In four days, we climbed up your leg at the Marine Corps Memorial, had a personal tour of Congress, and the White House.
I have finally obtained knowledge and understanding of the love and respect that the world has for you. In four days, I learned more about you than I did in the twelve years that I knew you.
Why did you not tell us about the Navy Cross?
And, how Congress stopped and the Senate lined up to shake your hand? Why did you never tell us these stories?
I am writing this letter exactly fifty-two years since the flagraising. I sat and tried to picture exactly how you felt and what it was like being on a little island thousands of miles from home.
Every year, Grandpa, we go to your grave and tell stories about how it was when you were alive. We sing your favorite songs. Can you hear us?
I don’t know where to send this letter, so it will go into my drawer.
(Flags of our Fathers: Bradley)
It will soon be Memorial Day. Thank you for the freedom we enjoy.