Iowa Post 389 thinks up unique projects to promote patriotism

Anthon, IA

In Anthon, Iowa, a new Iwo Jima Memorial stands beside Post 389.

Legionnaire Marvin Hansen served at Iwo Jima on a supply ship.

"He said they woke up that morning and they could see that flag and it put a whole new light on everybody's face," said Joe Harbaugh, Navy veteran.

The monument was Harbaugh's brainchild. It was an idea he couldn't shake, then began overtaking his basement in 2007. He wanted to honor Hansen, a friend and active member, as well as see through one of his preoccupations. He'd collected clippings of different Iwo Jima monuments around the country -- the most famous being in Washington, D.C., but also the original in Harlingen, Texas, and another made from pipes to look like stick figures and so on.

A friend living in the D.C. area took 12 photos, in a circle like a clock, of the monument and sent them to Harbaugh. Harbaugh studied them and measured angles. Then he persuaded six of the World War II vets from his post to serve as models.

"Got the guys measured up, went down to my basement, got a piece of stairway wooden handrail, and measured the angle on the original photo that the flag was coming up. I made me a template and I hung that handrail up in my basement, to a couple of floor joists, and got me some big pieces of cardboard and started sketching the guys one at a time onto this cardboard - life-size figures," Harbaugh said.

"If it didn't look right after I got it cut out of the cardboard, I'd take some duct tape and take some more cardboard, put it on there and re-sketch it," he said. "Some of my templates when I got done were mostly duct tape."

After a long drafting process, Penny Rosso, a friend and owner of Pen Steel, Inc., supplied sheets of steel. (Rosso had supplied steel crosses for veterans graves at cost to the post in 2009.) A neighbor helped Harbaugh chalk the figures onto the steel and cut them out.

Once in place, the Legionnaires used a torch to bend the elbows and hands of the figures around the flagpole, hammering them into place.

A hill of rocks and klinkers (sprayed with satin varnish to look wet) represents Mt. Surabachi.

At Memorial Day, a 48-star flag flew from the pole, just like the photograph.

All told, the cost of the project was $900 for the fence surrounding the monument, Harbaugh said. All the other materials and labor were free.

Though it took seven years to finish, it was important to take the time, Harbaugh said.

"I wasn't in a hurry to do it. I just wanted to get it done before I died. I just turned 80 years old in March, so I decided maybe I better get this thing done," he joked.

After the completion of this project, Harbaugh and his buddies at Post 389 were on to the next: a mock military funeral to promote patriotism among high school students.

"What I've looked at is parades and stuff where the kids don't remove their hats, they don't put their hands over their hearts," Harbaugh said. "We're losing our patriotism with the young people. So when we brought this idea to the school board, they were all for it. The superintendent was all for it."

On April 25, the Legion held the service on the high school football field. More than 300 people attended.

The post found a nationally-certified funeral director who performs military funerals to do the ceremony. They did the proper flag-folding and presenting of the flag, and even brought a coffin. Post members joined the crowd in the national anthem. The chaplain from the Sioux City Air Force base volunteered to do the benediction.

"If you had any patriotism at all it would choke you up," Harbaugh said.

They hope to hold another one in the future, and are looking ahead to what's next.

"(Hansen) is waiting for me to come home to start another project," he said.

To view photos of the mock funeral and more of the post's projects, visit

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