From Tropic Winds Resort – Harlingen, TX
Been here a week today and decided we needed to at least “put our toes in the water” and begin exploring this Rio Grande Valley we have chosen as our winter home. Have to admit the past week has been enjoyable with no daily agendas just lots of “bowl” game watching and learning the ins and outs as well as the activity schedules of our RV Park.
Have also enjoyed catching up reading downloaded “Kindle” books in the evenings instead of writing and posting journal entries and the rig got a much needed washing and looks much better. Then some minor odds and ends around our home have been attended to by the “man of the house”.
New Year’s Eve we were amazed at the large display of fireworks all around the park…….as good as some “town” celebrations. However these were being orchestrated from the backyards of the homes surrounding the resort. Been a long time since we have seen this amount of quality fireworks within the city limits of a city because most cities/towns outlaw this type of celebration.
Found a wonderful Mexican food restaurant in town and enjoyed dinner there Tuesday evening……Los Asados! Then yesterday went to the movies and saw the current Sherlock Holmes feature. All in all a very uneventful first week but very enjoyable at the same time. Now to today’s adventures and discoveries.
Just a stone’s throw from our home base on a section of the former Harlingen Army Aerial Gunnery School is the campus of the Marine Military Academy. It was in 1965 this independent, nonprofit, military, college-preparatory boarding school for boys grades 8 thru 12 opened.
The Academy has the unique position of being the only school in the world with Military Leadership training based on the customs and traditions of the U.S. Marine Corps. This Academy with no governmental gifts or grants and no public tax support today remains a designated preparatory school whose graduates receive appointments to one of the three National Service Academies, The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the National Maritime Academy, the Citadel or Virginia Military Institute.
The Marine Military Academy is a true gem and prominent landmark for the city of Harlingen but it is the Iwo Jima Monument located on the Academy Parade Grounds that bring thousands of visitors each year. Today we were in those numbers.
On February 23, 1945 Joe Rosenthal shot the most reproduced photograph in history…….the raising of the United States flag on Mt. Suribachi on the Pacific Island of Iwo Jima. The photo caused such sensation that Dr. Felix de Weldon, a sculptor serving in the Navy, had a clay replica of it sculpted within 72 hours of seeing the image. Almost ten years later in 1954 the bronze statue was completed and dedicated by President Eisenhower in Arlington National Cemetery.
Dr. de Weldon however kept the original plaster model in his possession until 1981 when he donated the work of art to the Marine Military Academy. Today rising from a rocky slope atop a 10 foot black granite base are the six 32 foot figures erecting a 78 foot steel flag pole from which a flag flies 24 hours a day. The memorialized men occupy the same positions captured in the historic photo. The M-1 rifle and the carbine carried by two of the figures are 16 & 12 feet long respectfully and the canteen would hold 32 quarts of water. Quite an awesome memorial!!
The site selected for the monument’s home by Dr. de Weldon was relevant for several reasons…......... 1) The main street of the campus was appropriately named Iwo Jima Blvd. by its founders in 1965. 2) The Marine Military Academy is the only place outside Washington D.C. where proper honors are rendered with battalion-size dress blue parades. 3) The fairly constant temperatures and humidity in Harlingen are ideal for the preservation of the plaster figures. 4) The Marine placing the flag pole into the ground was from the Rio Grande Valley……..Cpl. Harlon H. Block of Weslaco, TX. Block was killed just six days after raising the flag at Iwo Jima and today his gravesite is located directly behind the monument. Of the six men who raised the flag at Iwo Jima, three including Cpl. Block were killed in action less than a month from this momentous occasion.
In addition to the monument there is a small museum with WWII memorabilia; the large part of which is related to the Battle of Iwo Jima as well as a 30 minute video on this historic WWII battle. Would recommend that if you find yourself in the deep southern part of Texas you seek out this attraction and be part of that large number of visitors who have viewed this awe inspiring work of art and the one of a kind Marine Military Academy that houses the monument.
Well this is a start…………according to the amount of visitor information we gathered the day we arrived there will be many more days of discovery and exploring the Rio Grande Valley!