, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 2, 2013

Lagoulis column: Leaving one's mark somewhere, somehow


Toward the end of 1945 the general of the 6th Marine Division requisitioned for a ship to bring a huge granite rock to Okinawa where I was stationed. WWII was coming to a close. He ordered a monument be constructed on the island by July 4th, 1945. The order was given, but who would build it?

Three men were selected to build the monument because of their past experiences. One man was from Vermont. He was selected because he’d worked in the stone quarries of Vermont. Another man was selected because he had worked cutting stone for cemeteries — his civilian business was a stone cutter. The third man was me. I was selected because of my welding skills and blacksmithing skills, and I knew how to make the necessary tools. It was an honor.

It took us about a week. The monument, when done, would be positioned on the highest hill facing west — facing Japan and China. We three had successfully cut the granite stone into the shape of one very large, heavy, gray cross.

We had the monument up and in place on the highest hill on Okinawa. And, on July 4, 1945, a special dedication ceremony was held. The General of the 6th Marine Division spoke. He was very pleased we got it done and on time. The monument represents the 1,697 Marines and Navy men buried there. I was proud to have played a significant role in its construction. The steps I’d taken in Newburyport as a young man many years earlier, when I took the initiative in asking Tom McGlew to teach me to weld down at the wharf, paid off far away on Okinawa. The monument stands there today and is visited by many veterans and their families.

Years later in a VFW Hall in Anchorage I shared my story with a friend, an Alaskan native, and said I’d like to go back and visit Okinawa and see the monument again. This person said, “Do you realize you have left your mark there? As the wild grizzly bear uses his claw to leave his mark in a tree – you have left your mark on Okinawa.”

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