HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Local United States Navy legend, Clarence “Bud” Johnson, a well-known and well-loved staple in the community, made an appearance at Movers and Shakers on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018, to share his memories of nearly four decades spent serving in the armed forces. Bud Johnson, an Ohio native, has called Towns County home for the past 45 years.
Michael Borkman, a forum moderator, sang the retired chief master sergeant’s praises before turning over the reigns to the admired veteran.
“Bud is an amazing community guy. He is one of the remaining people to see not one, but both flags risen at Iwo Jima. Bud was there. Bud saw both,” Borkman emphasized. “He was there fighting for our freedom, the blanket that we sleep under every night. That freedom.”
Bud Johnson, still going strong in spite of a recent back surgery, rose from his seat and took the podium. “I was in the United States Navy for over 36 years,” Johnson began. ” I went in in 1939 as a 17-year-old boy … I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer or railroader like my daddy. I said there’s something better in life to do.”
The veteran, just shy of 97 years old, recounted the struggle for Iwo Jima, emotionally recalling the fate of each man who rose the American flag on the island’s highest peak on that historic day in 1945. “For three days, we watched the Marines try to take that 200-yards of shore,” Johnson remembered. Johnson said the attack reminded him of an impregnated ant hill. “We’re not the heroes. The heroes are the ones who never made it back. We lost over 6,000 Americans, over 20,000 were wounded, but 24,000 lives were saved by taking Iwo Jima,” Johnson stated.
After the bloody battle ceased, Iwo Jima served as an emergency landing site for B-29 bombers, saving the lives of thousands of U.S. airmen.
“We had a community in the military just like we have here, a community of our friends,” Chief Master Sergeant Johnson explained. “We lost our individuality when we joined the military. It wasn’t self anymore. You would live for them and you would die for them.”
Bud Johnson thanked those in attendance for being Americans and for supporting the veterans. The crowd rose for a standing ovation while some stifled tears.
A remembrance ceremony was held at the Iwo Jima memorial at Foster Park in Young Harris on Monday, Feb. 19, to honor five Iwo Jima survivors on the 73rd anniversary of “America’s Battle.” The U.S. Marine Corps League, Unicoi Detachment #783, presented the program to acknowledge the veterans who served during the second World War.
Featured photo: Bud Johnson (left) with Michael Borkman
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