FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                           PRESS CONTACT:

February 27, 2015                                                                                                   Brenda Rangel 956.564.1527


PRESS RELEASE: Congressman Vela Honors South Texas Native Corporal Harlon Block on the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima


WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, February 26, 2015, Congressman Filemon Vela (D-Brownsville) entered into the Congressional Record a statement honoring Corporal Harlon Block, one of the six service members photographed raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  The iconic photo would boost the spirits of an exhausted nation and to this day serves as a reminder that Americans have the resolve to finish the fight.  This year marks the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.


“The bravery of Corporal Harlon Block and Greatest Generation that served beside him is beyond inspiring,” said U.S. Representative Filemon Vela.  “In the face of daunting of odds, much like our men and women in uniform today, they fought to protect the freedoms that continue to define our great nation.” 


The full text of Congressman Vela’s statement is below: 


“Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor South Texas native Harlon Block.  Seventy years ago, he was one of six men who were part of an iconic photo that would lift the spirits of an entire nation – the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima.


“Born in Yorktown, Texas, in 1924, Corporal Block later moved with his family to Weslaco, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley.


“Harlon Block attended Weslaco High School, where he led the Weslaco Panther football team to a conference championship and was named All South Texas End.  Before the end of his senior year, Corporal Block and seven of his teammates enlisted in the Marine Corps.  As a result, the school accelerated their studies and held a special early graduation ceremony in January 1943.


“Harlon Block left for Marine Corps basic training in February 1943, and he then attended parachute training school.  Corporal Block was assigned to the First Marine Parachute Regiment. After the Parachute Regiment was disbanded, he was transferred to Company E, Second Battalion, 28th Marines, Fifth Marine Division.


“On February 19, 1945, Corporal Block and his company took part in the invasion of the heavily defended island of Iwo Jima.  One day into the battle, Corporal Block and the 28th Marines began their assault onMount Suribachi, a 550-foot-high extinct volcano.  After a three-day onslaught, the unit reached the top and defeated the last remaining Japanese defenders. Corporal Block, along with Sergeant Michael Strank, Corporal René Arthur Gagnon, Corporal Ira Hayes, Private First Class Franklin Runyon Sousley, and Pharmacist’s Mate Second Class John “Doc” Bradley, defiantly raised the U.S. flag atop the mountain.  Corporal Block guided the base of the pole into the volcanic ash while the others raised the flag upward.  This is the scene that was captured in the famous photo at the Battle of Iwo Jima.


“Corporal Harlon Henry Block was killed in action on March 1, 1945 and never saw the famous photo.


“His remains were interred beside the Iwo Jima Memorial at the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas, which is a replica of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.  On several occasions I have had the opportunity to visit the memorial located in my Congressional District, and each time I am moved by the  courage and dedication of those who fought to win World War II. This memorial is a special place for the Rio Grande Valley, and serves as a reminder that our armed forces and our nation can overcome the greatest of odds.  Today, we remember the bravery”


The office of Congressman Filemon Vela will be presenting the Congressional Record to the Iwo Jima Memorial Museum in Honor of Corporal Harlon Block on a date that is to be determined.


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