DALLAS (AP) — Nearly 70 years after the Battle of Iwo Jima, Bill Schott is ready to remember it.
Schott, who lives in Haltom City, survived one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific Theater without a scratch, but he struggled with the memories of what he saw in 1945.
He was just 18 when he served as a Marine parachutist in the 5th Division, which suffered the most casualties of any unit in the 36-day battle.
"I saw a minister friend of mine and he told me, 'Bill, when you get those thoughts, think of something beautiful — a beautiful sunset, beautiful fishing, whatever you like — to take your mind off of it.'"
As a result, Schott remembers little of what happened. But now, at 87, he's hoping to fill the void.
The Dallas Morning News (http://dallasne.ws/WhmKKP ) reports Schott is one of 15 American World War II veterans who are traveling to the island on the one day of the year the Japanese government allows veterans and their descendants to visit.
"I'm hoping when I go back and I sit on the sands of Iwo Jima, I will maybe get a glimpse of what I did," he said.
Three of the 15 veterans live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and their trips are sponsored by Daughters of World War II, a nonprofit organization founded by Laura Leppert, wife of former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.
American Airlines donated one round-trip ticket, and Leppert's organization raised money for the others to fly for free.
The veterans will attend a symposium in Guam before visiting Iwo Jima for about five hours Wednesday. They will attend a memorial service overlooking the landing beaches and meet Japanese veterans.
Last year, Leppert made her first trip to the island with two veterans.
"Because they landed on the beach, they hadn't seen it from the air before," she said. "When they see it from the air, some start to cry. They think about everything they saw, they think about their buddies."
Leppert's late father, George Broderick, fought at Iwo Jima but rarely spoke of it.
"I don't think the vets wanted their family to know what they had to do to stay alive and save their country," she said.
It wasn't until her father was dying of cancer that he opened up about his experiences in the war.
Now she is working to help World War II veterans preserve their memories.
"The vets are so appreciative," she said. "They didn't think anyone cared anymore."
All three of the area men traveling to Iwo Jima were recently interviewed as part of an oral history project, Generations Lest We Forget.
Many of the people whose stories have been recorded already have died.
"The light's flickering out on that candle, and we've got to move so, so fast," Leppert said.
Schott had tried to make the trip to Iwo Jima two years ago, and he made it as far as Guam when an earthquake and tsunami hit.
Last year he wasn't up to making the trip, and after falling on Christmas Eve, he thought a trip this year would be out, too. But on Sunday, steadied by a walker with a Marine Corps sticker, he boarded a plane with Leppert and the other two area veterans, Fiske Hanley and Don Graves.
Hanley, 93, was a bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps who endured six months as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down.
Graves, 87, also served in the 5th division of the Marine Corps as a flamethrower. Unlike Schott, his Iwo memories are vivid.
"They trained us purposely for evil," said Graves, who was 17 when he enlisted. "And we didn't know this, of course. We knew nothing until the morning before."