Our Finest Hour
Looking back over the years, building a company was a long, hard road in many ways. There were problems I never expected, but there were also profound joys I never expected as well.
Two such examples were a re-enactment of The Battle of Iwo Jima and the final reunion of World War II submarine survivors to remember their fallen comrades who were lost at sea.
The Battle of Iwo Jima was one Daisy Charters was honored to be a part of. We were chosen to be the San Antonio support group under the direction of the National Museum of the Pacific War. The museum coordinators chose a high hill in Fredericksburg, TX, where the museum is located, as the sight for the re-enactment. The day before the event, Daisy Charters opened a field office in Fredericksburg to be available to assist them with any transportation they might need.
In preparation for the re-enactment, trenches and tunnels had been dug throughout the area to match the terrain on that fateful day. Vintage military equipment, both American and Japanese, had been borrowed from museums and placed in strategic places on the hill. It looked just like it did in February of 1945. Japanese re-enactors were flown in from Japan to take part in the battle.
The day of the event, U.S. Marine re-enactors stormed the base of ‘Mt. Suribachi’ early and began fighting to overtake the mountain. You could hear cannons and mortar all around. Casualties were carried off on stretchers to where medics could care for them. The mock battle was narrated by retired Lt. Col. Oliver North. At the exact time it had happened in 1945, U.S. Marines reached the top of the mountain.
Several soldiers placed a small American flag at Mt. Suribachi’s peak for all to see. The commanding officer thought it was too small and ordered that a larger one replace it. Photographers took pictures as each flag was raised. The picture of the larger flag reached the U.S. first and received worldwide recognition, becoming a famous symbol of the war with Japan. The men who had raised the first, smaller flag were not recognized until many years later. It was a glorious sight to see each flag go up. There were cheers and hugs and handshakes.
That evening, we celebrated with all the re-enactment soldiers. The Japanese re-enactment soldiers knew their history well and were able to tell us stories of Japan’s reaction. Observers had come from all over the country to watch the re-enactment of The Battle of Imo Jima. It was an honor to help with it.
The second memorable experience was for a conference of World War II submarine survivors. At this, their last reunion, they wanted to honor their comrades who were lost at sea and we got to help them plan it.
A dinner was arranged at a restaurant on the beautiful San Antonio Riverwalk. As WWII survivors arrived, darkness fell and the moon came out. After dinner, the moon provided light for many barges coming down the river. Barge after barge approached the lagoon. Each one bore a sign signifying a submarine that had been lost at sea. The Air Force band played softly in the background. As each barge arrived in the middle of the lagoon, Taps was played, a beautiful wreath was thrown into the water and the name of the lost submarine was announced. Pretty soon, the lagoon was filled with beautiful wreaths bearing the names of the lost-at-sea submarines. When all the barges had arrived in the lagoon, Taps was played again followed by The Star-Spangled Banner. There were tears and hugs and they weren’t just the tears of the veterans and their families. They had planned a beautiful memorial to their fallen comrades and we were thrilled to be a part of it. I love my job!
June Bratcher has a long association with the military and today still moves military troops. Her reputation for quality service was recognized when she was made Honorary Commander of Lackland AFB 345th Training Wing for outstanding service to the military.
Read more of her story in her recently released book, You Are Driving Me Crazy!