The Canby/Aurora VFW Post 6057 already faced significant challenges in holding its 76th anniversary remembrance ceremony of the flag raising at Iwo Jima — not the least of which was gathering size restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic — and that was before a historic ice storm knocked out power to the entire city of Canby and hundreds of thousands of other Oregonians exactly one week earlier.
But Martin Lackner, post commander and longtime organizer of the event, just couldn’t stomach not doing anything to remember the sacrifice of the men who fought and died in one of the bloodiest and most pivotal battles of World War II.
“You know, it was even mentioned to cancel this year’s event altogether, but a small group of us decided that we just couldn’t do that,” he said. “We wanted to hold a small gathering to make sure that those who gave their lives for our country weren’t forgotten.”
Last year’s historic event, in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the battle, had been a grand affair, with distinguished speakers, live Taps, reenactors and a 21-gun salute. This year’s — held Saturday morning outside the Canby Adult Center — was much more modest, with 10 people in attendance.
But the core elements remained — including the sprinkling of several small packets of that “famous black sand” onto the rock at the Canby Adult Center that commemorates those who fought and died at Iwo Jima.
“We do that every year,” he said. “It’s one way we honor and show that all those whom we lost that day are not forgotten. They’re still with us.”
Lackner’s son, Ansen, wore a historically accurate WWII-era Boy Scout uniform — illustrating the way ordinary civilians pulled together in extraordinary ways to help the war effort.
“The Greatest Generation came together in ways we haven’t seen since and may never see again,” Lacker said. “Whether it was scrap metal drives and bond sales and enlisting. Everyone played a part.”
Unlike in years past, no Iwo Jima or WWII vets were able to attend. Of the four who were guests of honor in February 2020, three have died in the past year, including one to Covid-19.
But Lackner has vowed to continue the remembrance ceremony — even when the sad day comes that there are no longer any WWII veterans to thank in person.
Regardless of wind, snow or ice.
“You know, it wasn’t the best weather on Iwo Jima that day, either,” Lackner quipped. “They didn’t reschedule.”
Photos by Tyler Francke: