DURHAM, N.C. — It was a special night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park for more than 400 5th Marine Division members who were honored for serving during World War II.
George Cattelona was one of the veterans who stormed the island of Iwo Jima and survived. On Thursday, the Triangle retiree got the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Durham Bulls’ game.
“It’s probably the first ball I’ve thrown in 45 years or more,” he said.
More than six decades ago, members of the Fifth Marines made history by putting up an American flag on top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima.
“We knew what we were there for,” said veteran Bill Henderson. “We were there to do our duty, and we did it.”
Menard Prouilette, also known as Bull, remembered the day he and his fellow Marines landed.
“Well, it’s pretty rough when you’re sitting up there and look around and see your friends getting killed and mangled and torn up, you know,” he said. “It’s pretty hard, but you have to continue. You have a job to do, and it has to be done.”
The men of the Fifth Marines were the guests of honor at the Bulls’ game. When they weren’t watching the game, they spent time trading war stories and catching up on old times.
This reunion was the first time "Bull" was seeing his fellow Marine, William Russell, since 1945. Russell still remembered trying to keep "Bull" in line.
“I was the one that got in trouble, but Bull should have been in trouble with me,” Russell said.
Old friends, unforgettable moments and a generation who were still willing to share the stories about the history they lived.
“I think we all who walked off that island were pretty lucky,” Cattelona said.
The military de-activated the 5th Marine Division after World War II. It was re-activated during the Vietnam War, but the current active Marine force has four divisions.