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LET THEM NOT BE FORGOTTEN: On New Year’s Day 2007, my friend Danny Thomas passed away. Thankfully I was able to speak with him the week of Christmas before his passing. In that conversation Danny made it known in his quite, southern gentlemanly way that when his time came, he’d like his ashes returned to Iwo. I knew he wanted to be “reunited” with his lost buddy Chick. On March 12th, 2007 I fulfilled his last wish on about the same patch of Yellow Beach II that he and Chick landed on.

National Geographic happened to be on the island filming and asked if they may record this private ceremony. I agreed, and a portion of it was included in their 2008 program – Stateside, an Iwo Marine happened to be watching this very program from his hospital bed – Sgt. Leon Padell HQ-2-24 (4th Marine Division), who remarked to his son “I want that”! Padell’s son contacted me and we spoke of his dad’s experiences with the 4th Division during the Iwo operation. Months later the sergeant passed away – yet his wish was about to be granted. On March 11th, 2008 during the filming of our Battle Rats pilot episode, Sgt. Padell was returned to Iwo.

The sergeant’s final resting spot not in question for long – Padell’s son Jeff mentioned that the only happy memory his father had during the battle was seeing the flag go up! I knew then that Sgt. Padell needed to be taken up Mount Suribachi and placed there on the summit, right where both flags went up. This memorial ceremony was originally intended to be filmed for the family and not included in our program, yet after talking with the family it was decided to share it with the world, that others might be moved by it – that they might be so inspired to do some simple gesture for their veteran – be he family, friend, neighbor or complete stranger – they all need to know that what how they were, and what they did will not be forgotten.

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