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Local veterans recount war ‘In Their Own Words

Veterans Dr. William Rose, left, and Paul Ceynowa gave speeches to a small crowd at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum on Memorial Day. Joe Bowen/FOCUS

The most important part of a soldier’s training, said In Their Own Words Veterans Museum guest speaker Dr. William Rose, isn’t the conditioning, or the marksmanship training, or anything similar.

“You have to teach them that the most important person is the one standing next to you,” he said in a speech during a Memorial Day event at the museum.

In a moving story, Rose recounted his recovery from the grievous injuries, and subsequent near-death experience, he sustained during the Vietnam War.

“I can say that I’m here today because all of the people in that scenario thought I was the most important person in the world,” he said, adding that, “We have our freedoms because men and women felt that you were the most important person in the world,” despite never specifically knowing who “you” were.

Rose’s speech was followed by Paul Ceynowa’s, which recounted the veteran’s service at the battle of Iwo Jima.

Ceynowa landed with the 1st battalion of the 28th regiment. The 2nd battalion’s capture of Mount Suribachi is documented in an iconic photo by Joe Rosenthal.

Despite the “antiquated” equipment, Ceynowa still maintains it was “the greatest picture that was ever taken.”

Ceynowa remembers the battle itself well, especially the horrific casualties endured by both sides.

“When you fought the Japanese, there was no such thing as a white flag. It was either you or them,” he said to the crowd at ITOW.

Out of Ceynowa’s regiment of 3,300 soldiers, 1,300 were either wounded or killed on the first day, he recounted.

Ceynowa said, “you had to thank the Lord if you survived” one of the war’s bloodiest battles.

“People ask, ‘How come you didn’t get wounded or killed?’” he said. “And I say, ‘Because if we all got wounded or killed we would have lost the damn battle!’” to a burst of laughter from the crowd.

Rose and Ceynowa’s speeches were bookended by ITOW Director Marcia Davis, who spoke about the history of Memorial Day and the significance of the museum to veterans and the community alike.