Flag raising ceremony held at last request of veteran on 76th anniversary of Iwo Jima victory

Hannah Stanley

After the passing of Mr. Elwood “Woody” Hughes on Feb. 2, 2021, grandson Steven Hughes sought to carry on his grandfather’s last wish.

Woody Hughes, who died at age 95, was a veteran who was present at Iwo Jima and wanted Kentuckians to remember his fellow veterans. Through the help of a close family friend, Luke Eiden, a flag-raising ceremony was organized on the 76th anniversary of the historic flag raising on the island of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945.

“The last thing that his father had marked on the calendar was for a flag raising on the 23rd, and his son Bill reached out to me and asked me if I could help him in starting a movement to spread awareness for his father’s last wishes,” said Eiden. “And I just, I wanted to make sure I did everything I could as a friend to fulfill his father’s last wishes.”

Eiden reached out to multiple UK offices and administrators in efforts to organize a flag raising.

The ceremony took place on Tuesday, Feb. 23 on the main lawn of the University of Kentucky. ROTC cadets raised the flag to honor the lives lost in the World War II conflict. The event began with Provost David W. Blackwell and two University of Kentucky ROTC cadet speakers, followed by a moment of silence and raising of the flag.

“Today we honor those brave marines, and especially those of Kentucky,” Blackwell said.

Both local U.S. veterans Woody Hughes and Franklin Sousley were recognized during the ceremony for their time spent within the military.

Sousley was one of the six men photographed in the famous flag raising photo taken atop Mount Suribachi during the final stages of the battle. Sousley died on the island, and Woody Hughes dedicated his last years of life spreading the awareness and importance of those who fought at Iwo Jima.

Woody Hughes chose to do the same for he told and wrote countless amounts of stories of what he had endured during his time in the war.

“He was a storyteller, like I said he was a communicator. I think his way of honoring people was to read and tell their stories,” said Hughes. “He loved to write letters, he had letters being delivered that he had just written the day he passed.”

Being a hero in his grandson’s heart, he left remarks that have stuck with Hughes today and will for the rest of his life.

“He would say the greatest heroes, the only real heroes never made it off the island,” said Hughes.

Hughes wishes to do the same as his grandfather by remembering all of those who had put their lives on hold to fight for this country. In hopes to continue such a tradition of honoring those who fought, Hughes will continue the efforts so others will not be forgotten just as his grandfather.

“He loved to remember,” said Hughes. “He loved to honor those who gave their life.”