Home » News » Flag lifter Ira Hayes inspires 75 years later

Flag lifter Ira Hayes inspires 75 years later

A photo of an Ira Hayes monument in Sacaton on February 22, 2020.

PHOENIX – Raised in the Indian community of the Gila River south of Phoenix, Brian Alphus Jr. is familiar with the story of Ira Hayes.

The two are similar in many ways: they are both Native Americans from the same Pima reserve. And like Hayes, Alphus plans to join the United States Marine Corps this summer at the age of 19.

Hayes became world famous, captured in the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of six US marines who raised an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. It was the one on the far left who was looking for the flag pole.

His heroics occurred 75 years ago this week, but continue to resonate today.

U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raises the American flag on top of the mountain. Suribachi, Iwo Jima, February 23, 1945. Strategically located just 660 miles from Tokyo, the Pacific island became the site of one of the bloodiest and most famous battles of World War II against Japan.

“Ira was an idol of the community, a hero and a model,” said Alphus, who added that he had “no father model” in his life and that veterans like Hayes help bridge the gap.

75th anniversary:Here are the most iconic images of the battle of Iwo Jima

Many members of the Indian Gila River community spoke about Hayes’ legacy on Saturday during a military parade near Veterans Memorial Park on the Indian Gila River community, 40 miles southeast of Phoenix.

Several hundred people near and far attended the celebration, which was held in honor of the 75th anniversary of the raising of the flag.

For Valerie Fagerberg, Hayes ‘story was one of resilience because, in addition to surviving the war, she had to deal with post-traumatic stress and survivors’ guilt at a time when there were not many resources available for veterans. Fagerberg is a resource navigator for the veterans office and community family services.

“For him to go through what has been put through and for this community to come together and honor him as a tribal member makes me very proud,” he said.

A photo of one of Ira Hayes' dog tags on February 22, 2020.

Hayes was born in 1923 in Sacaton, Arizona. In 1942, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and fought in the Solomon Islands in Vella Lavella, the Bougainville Campaign and Iwo Jima, among other places. Hayes won the laudatory medal of the Navy and the Marine Corps with a combat “V” and a combat ribbon.

When he returned, he was hailed as a hero and even starred in the 1949 Hollywood movie “The Sands of Iwo Jima”, with John Wayne.

Leave a Comment