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Veterans honored at UK on 76th anniversary of iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising

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Posted at 12:49 PM, Feb 23, 2021

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Two Iwo Jima WWII veterans were honored Tuesday morning on the University of Kentucky campus for their service on the 76th anniversary of the iconic flag-raising on Mount Suribachi in 1945.

The cadets with UK Army and Air Force ROTC performed a flag-raising ceremony for veterans and their families with a special honor to WWII Iwo Jima veterans Elwood "Woody" Hughes and Franklin Sousley, as well as all Kentucky veterans.

Woody died on Feb. 2 at 95 years old. His grandson, Steven, was present for the ceremony Tuesday morning. He said his grandfather always wanted veterans to be more than something "burned into a textbook."

"My grandfather was a storyteller. He was a teacher he was in the war he was a communicator. He was a runner -- a messenger. He worked with the Signal Battalion which supported the Fifth Marine Division on Iwo Jima and some other battles in the war, and for me to be able to tell his story is just a big honor for me," said Steven. "And I think he'd be proud of what we've done here today, memorializing--what he would always say, he wouldn't ever let us talk about Iwo Jima without saying the real heroes never made it off the island, including, you know, the other gentleman from Kentucky."

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Sousely was one of those men. He was from Fleming County and is buried there. Woody moved to Kentucky a few years ago and during the summer of 2020 went to Sousely's memorial grave to pay his respects. "That's the kind of man he was, he, he wanted to tell the story of those to honor them," said Steven.

Steven explained as his grandfather's life progressed, he spoke more about the war and his time on Iwo Jima.

"He loved to tell the story, and to honor the men, you know, almost 7,000 Marines died on the island. Very small island in just a short period of time, and he would always tell us how they were going to invade Japan if they couldn't get control of the territory. So, you know, without these battles the war could have gone very, very poorly," Steven said.

Although Woody was raised in Illinois and did not move to Lexington until the end of his life, his grandson Steven, who graduated from and works at UK, explained his grandfather died a Kentuckian.

Steven said, "He liked to pay his tribute but not just to give recognition but also inform people. He was a teacher. He loved to inform people, and coach them and teach them. So, you know, we miss him, and we think this is a great way to pay tribute and honor him and to carry on his legacy."

Woody had planned to raise a flag at Veteran's Elementary school off Tate's Creek today to remember other veterans. Because he passed in early February, his son did the honors Tuesday morning. Schools across the country joined the memory and raised flags to remember Iwo Jima veterans as well.