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Raising the flag

A group of Conyers residents are forming a local Honor Flight hub to serve the east metro area to take WWII veterans on a trip like Isen took - an all expenses paid trip to see the WWII and other monuments in Washington D.C. To find out more, click here or call 770-483-4049.


Venon Ison fought his way across the Pacific in World War II, all the way to Iwo Jima.

He was a young Marine from Kentucky and was in the third wave to land on the island in 1945.

He had been set to go in earlier.

"I went in on the second wave but I got beat up a little bit and woke up in the water," he said. "They picked me up and took me back to the hospital ship."

He only had a concussion and was returned to battle.

Ison had another close call there, with a B-29 bomber landing in a hole with him.

"He was all shot up and come down," he said.

It was a long, bitter fight, and it provided an iconic moment in Marine Corps and American history: The flag-raising on Mount Suribachi.

It was a picture-perfect moment, but unfortunately didn't mark the end of hostilities on the island, according to Ison.

"They put the flag up and I remember somebody telling me, "Hey Sarge, the battle's over."'

"And I looked around and saw the flag up there and said, "Somebody (made) a mistake. All the firefighting we're in now and the island's not been taken.'"

"The newspaper people wanted that picture. And of course they got a monument in Washington out of it."

His long years of service began in July 1940 when Ison had hitchhiked to Cincinnati to enlist. He had wanted to go to college, but his parents were poor and he couldn't afford it.

He was in the Fourth Marine Division, The Fighting Fourth.

When American involvement in the Second World War began, Ison was at sea and away from Pearl Harbor.

"I went back there and saw what damage they did," he said.

Iwo Jima was the toughest fight, but Ison also served on Saipan and in other campaigns. It was one after the other.

"We were there from the start to the end."

He left the Marines in 1946 and returned to school, but then returned to service for the Korean War, this time in the Army, commissioned as a lieutenant.

Ison, 87, was wounded twice, once as a Marine and once in the Army in Korea.

He earned a Purple Heart in World War II on Saipan after volunteering for a detail to recover troops lost to enemy fire. He was wounded by a sniper.

"We got the bodies out anyway," he said.

He was injured in a Jeep wreck in Korea when they were fired on, sustaining a crushed pelvis.
Treatment was long and harsh.

"They had me pinned on a board like a butterfly," he said.
After Korea, Ison continued to serve in the Army, working up to the rank of Major before retiring in 1962.

In September, Ison was able to participate in an Honor Flight, a program that takes World War II veterans to Washington to tour the war memorial, the Korean War memorial and other sites.

"I think it was great," he said. "Every moment you were there, they were taking you to something or through something."

His daughter Becky Ison served as a guardian on the trip.

"All the things they do in one day is amazing," she said.