February 23, 1945 — Iwo Jima, Japan
During the Battle of Iwo Jima, Sgt. Michael Strank led five men up Mount Suribachi to plant the American flag for all U.S. troops to see. Michael was born in Czechoslovakia in 1919 and came to America with his parents, growing up in Pennsylvania. He liked school and played the French horn. Before joining the military, he worked as a coal miner. He joined the Marine Corps at 20 and quickly advanced to the rank of sergeant. His captain tried to promote Mike before Iwo Jima, but he wanted to stay with the men he had trained. In the famous photo of the flag raising, Mike’s right hand is the only hand not on the flag pole. His hand is on Franklin Sousley, helping him support the heavy pole. Mike led his team successfully atop Mount Suribachi, but he didn’t leave Iwo Jima alive. Sgt. Strank died on Iwo Jima on March 1, 1945, when he was hit by a mortar shell. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He will forever be remembered as a true patriot, sacrificing himself for the flag he honored.