At Memorial to ‘Uncommon Valor,’ Firefighters Respond to Uncommon Winds

May 5, 2021Joshua Skovlund
firefighter at Marine Corps War Memorial

Arlington County firefighters repair the flag on top of the US Marine Corps War Memorial. Photo by Tom McQueeney, from Twitter.

Carved on the front of the US Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, are the words of Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz, who said that on Iwo Jima, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”

But Sunday, local firefighters needed to lend a hand after the memorial faced uncommon winds.

A storm The Washington Post called a “wall of wind” rolled over the capital Friday, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour. The memorial’s flag became tangled and came loose from its rigging.

marines memorial flag
Arlington County firefighters close in on the flag at the US Marine Corps War Memorial. It had torn loose in high winds. Photo courtesy of Arlington County Fire Department.

A ladder truck dubbed Tower 104 from the Arlington County Fire Department responded to set the flag right.

The top of the memorial’s flagpole is 78 feet off the ground, beyond the reach of most ladder trucks. But Tower 104, which can extend over 100 feet, had no problem getting a team up to the flag, which had broken from its line and was not fully open. 

The memorial was created by Felix W. de Weldon. According to the city of Rosslyn, it’s considered one of the largest bronze statues in the world. The memorial is a re-creation of Joe Rosenthal’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of an iconic scene atop Mount Suribachi after Marines took the mountain five days into a grueling WWII battle on the island of Iwo Jima. 

A key piece of terrain needed to set up for the invasion of Okinawa, Iwo Jima would also act as an emergency landing zone to save 24,000 US airmen in 2,200 B-29 bombers. Over 36 days during the battle for Iwo Jima, almost 7,000 Marines died and approximately 20,000 more were injured, according to the National WWII Museum. Twenty-seven Marines and sailors received the Medal of Honor for their actions there.

Read Next: Meet 102-Year-Old Retired Col. Dave Severance, the Man Who Led the Marines That Raised the Flag on Iwo Jima

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.

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