February 23, 1945 — Iwo Jima, Japan
Private First Class Ira Hayes was one of the six flag raisers of Iwo Jima and one of the three to survive the war. Ira was a Pima Indian, born on January 12, 1923, at the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. This Native American joined the Marine Corps on August 24, 1942, and left for Iwo Jima with the other five future flag raisers. On Iwo Jima he watched his comrades die, including his buddies Sgt. Mike Strank, Cpl. Harlon Block, and Pfc. Franklin Sousley. Ira survived the battle and was sent home by the Army to take part in the 7th Bond Tour to promote the war. He struggled with his fame and feelings of inadequacy. After the war he went back to his reservation and battled with alcohol abuse. In 1954, he reluctantly attended the dedication ceremony for the Iwo Jima monument in Washington, DC. Only three months later, January 24, 1955, Hayes died after a night of poker and drinking. At the age of 32 he drank himself to death after being continually haunted by his lost friends and the undeserved glory that had been pressed upon him. Despite Ira’s opinion of his actions, he was entombed at Arlington National Cemetery, a true American hero.