KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s a ritual Clayton Narveson rarely misses. When the weather is good, this 98-year-old World War II Marine flies the American flag on the front porch of his home. He was 18 years old when he joined the US Marines in 1942.
“My country called me and I went. My mother and father had six boys and one girl. Seven Children. All 6 of us were overseas,” said Narveson.
“You wanted to be part of the fight,” asked Don Dare.
“Yes, I did. I wanted to be part of it, you bet. I enjoyed my time in the Marine Corps,” said Narveson.
February 1945, the battle of Iwo Jima began in the Pacific. Narveson was there. His unit of Marines led the charge on the volcanic island heavily defended by the Japanese.
“Everybody on the Higgins Boat, all 18 of us on the Higgins Boat, everyone prayed in a different way. Most of it was the Lord’s prayer,” said Narveson.
The battle is probably best remembered for the Feb. 23 flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi, the image frozen in time at the Marine War Memorial.
“I saw both flags go up. I saw the first flag go up and it was the smaller one. The reason, the sailors aboard ship couldn’t see it,” said Narveson.
A few hours later, the second flag — seen in this statue — was raised. Narveson’s buddy poked him in the ribs.
“Hey, Clay, the flag just went up. I turned around and I (he laughs), I got tears in my eyes,” said Narveson.
The battle went on long after the flag was raised. Marines fought for more than a month, there were 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 killed in action.
“It was the guys you lost, we were very close,” said Narveson.
After the war, Narveson, under the GI bill, received his law degree and became a corporate attorney. At a dance, he met Betty. They’ve been married for 70 years, have two children and many grandchildren. Holding a bottle of sand from Iwo Jima, Narveson rubbed shoulders with Marine Corps Gen Joe Dunford on the 75th anniversary of the invasion.
“Freedom means an awful lot to you?” said Dare.
“Freedom does; Freedom isn’t free. You have to fight for it,” replied Narveson. “I wanted to be remembered for doing my job the best I could.”