James Holloway’s goal was to bring back plenty of sand from his visit last week to historic Iwo Jima, where the United States claimed a key victory over Japan near the end of World War II.
The Scottsdale teen, a member of the Young Marines, snared five pounds worth of sand he described as the thinnest he’s ever walked on. Holloway and about a dozen other Young Marines from around the nation made the weeklong trip for the March 8 commemoration of the 61st anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was the lone Arizonan in the group.
Holloway didn’t expect to bring back a new appreciation for a short military bugle call he has heard hundreds of times since joining the Soaring Eagles, Scottsdale’s Young Marine chapter, five years ago.
“It was different hearing taps at Iwo Jima,” said Holloway, 18, a senior at Desert Mountain High School. “Until I experienced it in a setting like that, seeing American and Japanese generals united for the anniversary of the fighting against each other, it really hit me. It was awesome.”
Holloway’s mother, Nancy Wigton, said her son cried when taps sounded at a Young Marines event he attended Saturday. It was the first time that’s happened to him.
“It’s one thing hearing it, then listening to it on the island where so many people died for our freedom,” said Holloway, a Young Marines master gunnery sergeant, the highest ranking of teens in the Arizona chapter. “Taps will never be the same again.”
About that sand. “He wants to give a little bit of it to veterans who may have been part of the war but unable to get to Iwo Jima,” Wigton said. “He’s going to talk to veterans’ organizations and other groups to find men who fought there and give them some.”
Holloway, who calls himself a typical teen, likes video games, hard rock and heavy metal music, working at a Scottsdale Safeway and — especially — history.
He knew the Iwo Jima trip would give him a hands-on look at an event he has studied in school and on the Internet many times.
He knew he’d see sites, such as the one where six Marines — including Arizonan Ira Hayes — raised the American flag on March 23, 1945.
But he was interested in the interaction.
“Talking to veterans who lived through that battle and hearing their stories was incredible,” Holloway said. “I talked to a couple of generals who were there. It was a fraternity of veterans remembering what they’ve gone through, what they gave to their country.
“Being at the battlefield and seeing the bombers, having a hands-on approach, seeing the machine guns, the tunnels, the areas they used was hard to imagine.”
Holloway’s trip was financed by the national Young Marines in Washington, D.C.
“It’s an accomplishment to go there and stay,” Holloway said. “Not everyone does it. Some leave after a year. I said I wanted to learn a lot from them and I backed up what I said. Other kids should do it. It teaches about history and what our veterans fought for.
“The Young Marines call to me,” Holloway added. “I’ll stay with them, then I’ll join the military. I’m not sure which branch, but I know I want to serve. The Young Marines have made me feel that way.”
To lean more about the Soaring Eagles, visit
www.soaringeaglesyoungmarines.com or call Eric Brackman at (602) 321-2059.