Iwo Jima veteran — and songwriter — pays tribute to Americans who died in WWII battle
By JAMES A. JONES JR. | The Bradenton Herald | Published: February 13, 2020
(Tribune News Service) — Memories of the bloody battle for Iwo Jima, fought nearly 75 years ago between Feb. 19 and March 26, 1945, never leave Marine veteran Gene Christie, 96.
Nor, thoughts of the 26,038 Americans who were killed and wounded on Iwo Jima. It was the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history.
It was in their memory that Christie began writing an ode three or four years ago, and later decided that he wanted to set it to music, said his son, Randall Christie.
It was a turnaround from when Christie was raising his nine children after World War II.
“He wouldn’t talk about it at all,” Randall Christie said.
Wednesday, with family members and friends looking on, Gene Christie, himself wounded during the battle for Iwo Jima, introduced the song at Elan Assisted Living in Tara, Florida.
“I wanted some extra recognition for those who died,” Christie said, recalling that a letter of sympathy from the government, a Purple Heart, and an insurance money payment hardly seemed enough for their sacrifice.
“I keep thinking of all the guys who went to the front line, got killed, and never came home,” he said.
It was Christie’s job to bring reserves up to the front line to replace Marines who had been killed or wounded.
With the help of his children, Gene Christie was able to find a singer to professionally record the song to a country-and-western beat.
“I love it. I hope you like it,” he said to friends Wednesday after playing the CD.
Mary Fatout, Elan activities director, said that Christie had the ode written, and then several months ago decided that he wanted to set it to music.
“His children did a lot of the work on it,” she said of the process of recording the song. “I cry every time I hear the song.”
“My dad was very sad for the reserves that he would bring up to the front line during the battle for Iwo Jima. He didn’t think they got recognition enough after the war. It has been a seedling that blossomed first into an ode and then this song,” Randall Christie said.