Curious Learners visit the Iwo Jima Sculpture in Harlingen, TX

One of my favorite ways to learn is getting out and seeing things. Those experiences, field trips, and excursions are always more memorable than any book or worksheet.

When we agreed to move to Texas it was because we wanted to start living an adventure beyond the walls of our normal. Many thanks to Keep your Daydream’s Marc and Tricia who we’ve been watching for years and have inspired us to start making changes to our norm. We can’t quite travel full time yet, so we are choosing a half-way-there plan. We are traveling as much as we can, and homeschooling our kids so we can enjoy the adventures.

One of our very first trips was a last minute opportunity and I said yes without even knowing what was there. We began our explorations by just googling “things to do in Harlingen”. We found the original Iwo Jima monument with a great visitor center where we chatted with a couple volunteer veterans who enjoyed showing us around. With no agenda other than enjoying the area, I loved that we had time to listen to him tell stories of the people in the photos and the memorabilia around the center. This is definitely a great stop for you to consider.

Curious Learning Moment

This brought up a lot of interesting questions so here’s some curious questions we worked through.

What was so important about Iwo Jima? We are not learning about WW2 this year, so a quick history video helped us answer this question. We watched this in the parking lot before going into the visitor center. I chuckled at myself, here I am a veteran educator, purposeful homeschooling mom and I’m teaching on the fly.

Why was this statue created? The Marines who raised the flag atop Mount Suribachi were captured by news photographer, Joe Rosenthal. He won a Pulitzer Prize for this inspiring photo and a sculpter Dr. Felix W. deWeldon, while active duty in the Navy created a scale model of the scene which became a symbol for the final war bond drive.

How was this statue created? deWeldon spent nine-and-a-half years preparing a model from molding plaster. He was able to meet two of the survivors to capture their likeness and used many photos to model the other three men. After the plaster statue was complete, it was deconstructed and moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. for bronze casting which took another three-and-a-half years. Finally, the bronze statue was erected near Arlington Nation Cemetery which is probably where you’ve seen pictures of it. Did you know that the canteen would hold 32 gallons of water?

Why is the original plaster model in Harlingen TX? Dr. deWeldon gave the original plaster model to the Marine Military Academy to inspire the candidates. The street in front of the Academy was already named Iwo Jima Boulevard in honor of local Texan Cpl. Block, one of the men depicted in the statue who was killed in action in WWII. On top of that, the temperatures and humidity in Harlingen are ideal for preserving the plaster.

What does the inscription say on the base? The base is made of Brazilian granite with golden names & dates of major Marine engagements since the founding of the Corps. The inscription says “In honor and in memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives for their country since November 10, 1775”. And then the tear-jerker tribute to the fighting men on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”.

Extensions for your Curious Learners:

If you can visit this one, or the one in Arlington, VA. It is worth the trip, the massive size and the story of the men’s bravery for our nation is a worthy stop. Make time to watch the movie in the visitor center, chat with the veterans and just enjoy the sculpture.

If you cannot visit, have your Curious Learner, create a map or timeline of the events surrounding the flag raising on Iwo Jima.

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