Never too late to honor the fallen

By Stacy Floden, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Chaplain Capt. Tyler Shields with the 103rd Chemical Battalion performs funeral services for Marine Pvt. Carl Strong in Jackson, Ky., July 13, 2019. Strong was killed in action on Iwo Jima, March 14, 1945 while serving with the 28th Marine Regiment (courtesy photo)

JACKSON, Ky. – U.S. Marine Pvt. Carl Strong died March 14, 1945 in the Battle of Iwo Jima fighting for his country. On July 13, 2019, some 74 years after giving his life, Strong received full military honors surrounded by relatives, friends and fellow Marines during a memorial service held in Jackson, Ky.

Kentucky National Guard Chaplain (Capt.) Tyler Shields of the 103rd Chemical Battalion had the privilege to preside over the service.   “This memorial was significant because it shows that it’s never too late to do the right thing. It hits at the very core of our values; that we will never leave a fallen comrade even if 74 years have passed. Although he was forgotten for too many years, he wasn’t forgotten forever. Now, his service and sacrifice will always be remembered and he can finally rest in peace as an American hero.”

Strong was among some of the first Marines to go ashore and divide the island of Iwo Jima. He survived all of the first skirmishes in the battle for the first 24 days, but on March 14, 1945, as his unit moved forward towards Mount Suribachi, a Japanese sniper rose from a hidden position firing a round into the chest of Strong.

A Navy Chaplain offers a committal blessing  for a fallen Marine following the Battle of Iwo Jima in March 1945. (Courtesy photo)

He was buried on Iwo Jima along with nearly 7,000 other Marines who died in combat on the island. His body was returned to his mother three years later and he was interred in a family plot in Bulan, Ky. After many of his relatives passed away in the 1980’s, a coal company bought the family land and moved his body to an unrecorded location in Kentucky. Strong never received military honors for his service and sacrifice to his nation. Patrick Godsey’s father and Strong grew up together near Hazard, Kentucky, and back in 2015, Godsey and his dad made it their mission to find Strong’s remains and finally pay tribute to him.

“My dad passed away a little over a year and a half ago and I wanted to finish what we started,” stated Godsey.  “We had a tough time finding Strong’s remains.  I never thought this was going to happen.  But I finally was able to thank Strong in person and see him receive his military honors during his memorial service which was long overdue.”

“The Kentucky National Guard is comprised of men and women who represent families and communities all across our state. Funeral services are both family and community events,” said Kentucky National Guard State Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jay Padgett. “I find it fitting that a Kentucky chaplain would have the honor to officiate this long awaited memorial service for Pvt. Strong. It is only right that he be laid to rest with the proper rendering of military honors that are afforded to our nation’s war dead.”

“Being part of this memorial is among the top few experiences I’ve had in my military career. I was humbled to play a small part in honoring the sacrifice of this great American. It was a unique opportunity to link the past with the present,” said Shields. “Few in my generation will have the opportunity to honor someone of the Greatest Generation, let alone one that fell during such a historic battle. I will never forget this experience.”

Godsey, along with the Department of Kentucky, Marine Corps League and J.C. Paul Detachment #1448 Commandant Greg Sims were instrumental in finding Strong and planning the memorial service.

 

 

 

 

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