Its has been said that ever since the dedication,
Of the Iwo Jima Memorial on Arlington Ridge,
A ceremony takes place each morning
In the hours just before dawn.
As a low, knee-high ground fog
Sweeps across the Ridge in the cool morning air,
A band is heard playing the "Marines Hymn".
From an unknown distance and very low at first,
The music becomes increasingly louder.
Yet, no band is ever seen.
It is then said,
That out of the tree line of Arlington Cemetery,
A company of Marines clad in dress blues appears from the mist,
Marching through the ground fog toward the Memorial.
Flags at the head of the column stand straight out,
Snapping in the wind, yet not even the slightest breeze is felt.
The Marines march to the Memorial in perfect cadence,
While no orders are heard by those who witness this event.
Like "The Silent Drill Team",
the Marines execute each move in flawless synchrony.
As they reach the Memorial,
They suddenly halt, right face, and "order arms"
As the lights from the monument
Ricochet off of their fixed bayonets.
The Marines possess an eerie transparency
That sends shivers down the spines of onlookers,
Yet there is no fear.
In fact, a feeling of pride and honor
Sweeps over those who gaze upon the apparition.
Four Marines ceremoniously step out from the ranks
And lay a wreath of red and white roses at the base of the Monument.
It is believed that these four men
Are Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Ira Hayes, Cpl. Rene Gagnon,
(three of the six flag raisers on Iwo Jima),
And Medal of Honor winner John Basilone.
Strank and Basilone were killed
On that hellish black sand island in 1945
While Gagnon and Hayes were destined to relive that fateful day
Until mercifully relieved them of their posts.
Two buglers are heard playing "Echo Taps",
But once again, there are no buglers in sight.
The ceremonies conclude just before the break of dawn
As the Marines come to right shoulder arms, right face,
And silently march back to Arlington Cemetery.
It is said that they are from all eras of Marines buried in Arlington,
And they are charged with guarding their Memorial
And the honor for which it stands.
All of this may be difficult for some to believe,
But legends are, after all, only legends.
Yet, ask any Marine if they believe the legend,
That Marines guard the gates of heaven
And see what they say.
The "Legend of Arlington Ridge",
Is no more than the belief in honor.
Marines live it every day of their lives.
Honor is what we were taught when entering the Corps;
Honor is what we took when we left.
Throughout life and beyond,
It is our most cherished possession.
©2001 - L/Cpl Bruce Knipp