By: Brandon Spencer | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 21, 2020
MONTICELLO, Fla. (WCTV) -- This week marks 75 years since the Battle at Iwo Jima. The 36-day fight was one of the bloodiest of World War II.
Thursday, a celebration was held in Monticello to honor a hometown hero, Ernest "Boots" Thomas.
Thomas, a United States Marine, almost had his work lost in history. But, thanks to friends, his legacy will never be forgotten.
Thursday's celebration was a salute to the 75th anniversary of the Iwo Jima flag raising; not the one coined by the iconic photo, but the first flag raised on Japanese soil by Thomas, a Monticello native, and his team.
"This is an important date, an important event," said Commander Troy Avera, a U.S. Navy Veteran. "It's something that needs to be recognized and should be recognized."
The event would still be lost in history if it wasn't for Dr. James Sledge, who made sure his old friend's legacy is never forgotten.
"As a hero in the event that he was a part, of to raise that first flag, was the first American, first flag at all that had ever been raised on Japanese homeland and so we just wanted to keep the story of Boots Thomas in the forefront," Sledge said.
Sledge added he and Thomas were childhood friends and, after hearing his voice from an old interview, he thought back to the type of man Thomas was and the relationship they shared.
"He was always there, he was very responsible and he was what a teacher might say is a delight to have in her class because he was always able to get things done," Sledge said.
Despite the chilly weather Thursday, the event brought a huge crowd of people to celebrate and to honor all World War II Veterans.
"It was an honor to recognize those that have shed blood for the best interest of the American citizen," said Veteran George Washington Pittman.
And, thanks to communities like Monticello, heroes like Boots Thomas will be remembered forever.
The memorial can be found at Boots Thomas Veteran's Memorial Park in Monticello.