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97-year-old WWII veteran visits junior Marines at RDU on 75th anniversary of Iwo Jima

Posted February 19, 2020 12:05 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2020 6:35 p.m. EST

— The USO of North Carolina at Raleigh-Durham International Airport hosted a 97-year-old U.S. Marine and WWII veteran as he met with junior Marines in a tradition of passing down knowledge. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, in which he served.

Fred Reidenbach, of Fuquay-Varina, was a 22-year old Marine sergeant on Iwo Jima when the 36-day battle began on Feb. 19, 1945. On that day 75 years ago, U.S. soldiers attacked – primarily from the water – the Japanese-held island.

"The enemy had the advantage. They were looking right down at us," Reidenbach said. "The volcanic ash was hard to walk in, much less to get a vehicle to run in it.

"The only thing we could do was dig in and hope for the best."

Reidenbach has forgotten some specifics, but he can never forget the brothers who died in a battle that raged for 36 days.

"Their memories are pretty well etched in my mind," he said.

As fellow Marines raised the flag on Mount Suribachi, Reidenbach looked on from a distance – experiencing a moment that became an iconic image of American valor and victory.

On Wednesday, Reidenbach was on hand as 105 young Marines made the transition from training to their first duty stations.

Jessica Larsen, 19, from Kent, Wash., trained on Parris Island.

"It's really cool that I got to graduate from the same place that he did, someone who made history," she said.

The visit with Reidenbach, she said, (is) "giving me inspiration to keep going. I'm at the beginning of my journey, and there is so much I can do if I set my mind to it."

Trever Kincheloe, 18, of Odessa, Texas, said of meeting Reidenbach, "It's a real honor. It's one of those moments you can never forget."

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