Truett Wood, a Navy medic who witnessed the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, was hailed at his funeral Monday as a “wonderful patriot.”
“It was always an honor and a blessing to be associated with Truett Wood,” said Jesse Goldman, the chaplain for the Riverfront Marines, Detachment No. 1132, to a small gathering at Posey’s Funeral Home in North Augusta.
Wood, 88, was 18 years old when he joined the Navy from his native Hiawassee, Ga.,
out of a sense of patriotic duty. His attachment to the Marine Corps as a Navy corpsman placed him at several historic battles in the Pacific, including Iwo Jima, Saipan and Tinian.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are roughly 1.7 million World War II veterans still alive; an estimated 26,000 of those are Iwo Jima survivors.
“With all that combat, I don’t know how I escaped. I guess God was looking out for me,” Wood said in a 2010 interview after he returned to Iwo Jima for a commemoration of the 65th anniversary of the battle.
He witnessed the first raising of the flag on Suribachi, but not the second, larger flag, which was captured in the famous 1945 photograph by Joe Rosenthal. The first one was “really the one that was most important to me,” Wood said.
On Monday, the pews were lined with family members and more than a dozen members of the detachment, all wearing bright scarlet jackets. They stood at attention as the flag-draped coffin bearing Wood and vials of sand from Iwo Jima and Saipan was wheeled into the chapel.
Though Wood shied away from the word “hero” in life, Goldman said Wood truly was a hero, even if he is never honored as such with bronze statues or public speeches.
“God brought him through all kinds of horrible experience,” Goldman said. “He was a wonderful patriot.”