The first five groups of World War II veterans have completed their tour of the CNMI and the final group is expected to make the same tour on Monday.
According to Pacific Development Inc. managing director Gordon Marciano, the first five groups of the extended tours for Iwo Jima for Guam, Saipan, and Tinian cleared out over the week and the final group will arrive on March 25.
The group will be led by Best Defense Foundation executive director Donnie Edwards, a former American football linebacker from San Diego, California. He played for 13 seasons in the National Football League for the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers. Edwards retired in 2009 as one of only eight players in the history of the NFL to record more than 20 interceptions and 20 sacks during his career and has since devoted himself to philanthropic work with veterans and children from underprivileged backgrounds.
The final tour will consist of seven World War II veterans who fought on Iwo Jima as well as on Saipan and Tinian during World War II nearly 75 years ago. The veterans are Andre C. Chappaz (1885th Aviation Battalion), Gilbert D. Nadeau (45th US Navy), Kenneth “Scooter” Barday (69th infantry regiment), Thiele F. Harvey (26th Marines Regiment), Joseph Germano (24th Communication Marines), Dean Ladd (8th Marine Division), and Ronald “Rondo” G. Scharfe (USS Romulus, U.S. Navy).
Marciano said the tour is an extended version of the yearly Iwo Jima tour and memorial ceremony.
“As most of our vets from the era are passing on, the government of Japan sees the importance and continues to commemorate the anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima with families of Japan and U.S. vets. The Tour of Iwo Jima is organized by Military Historical Tour in partnership with the government of Japan,” he said.
The CNMI tour is made possible by the partnership between the Best Defense Foundation and the Military Historical Tours.
The visiting group consists of veterans of the Battle of Saipan, Battle of Tinian, and the Normandy Invasion.