Ken Swiatowicz is one of 23 veterans of World War II from the ArkLaTex who are traveling this week to Washington DC to visit war memorials and monuments. The trip is sponsored by Brookshires.
Just like most of the teenagers in the early 1940's, Ken Swiatowicz knew his time would come to serve his country.
They only choice he had was his branch of service.
"The Army will take anybody. The Navy is a little better. I said I want the Marine Corps, recalled Swiatowicz. "They said well we're sorry and then a few minutes later and said. they'll (Marines)accept you."
So off he went. Marine Private First Class Swiatowicz was shipped off to one of the most dangerous battles in the Pacific: Iwo Jima. On Japanese territory, it was the only U.S. Marine battle where American casualties were more than the enemy.
Swiatoticz didn't have a clue what to expect, but he learned quickly when he stepped foot on the island's beach front and looked up into the sky.
"An airplane it's horrible got shot out of the sky completely blew up. I presume it was one of our planes. That's a heck of a sight to see. At least two or three people ... then you knew reality was there, said Swiatowicz.
That was his first taste of battle. He would soon find himself in the trenches under heavy fire from the Japanese.
"They shoot the big heavy artillery stuff and the flame throwing guys and the machine guns. That's who they knock out first."
Less than one day into combat, PFC Swiatowicz was hit.
"The rifle is in front of ya and he wasn't aiming for my head. I mean he wasn't aiming for my arm because he hit me in my right arm."
Swiatowicz was wounded and had only one choice to make ...
"If he missed me at first, he'll change his sighting a little bit and he'll surely get me so I picked up my rifle and ran hard back to the beach," said Swiatowicz. "Next day or so I was up and around and they say 'oh you got a ticket home' and I said what do you mean. He said 'yeah you're gonna go home now'".
Swiatowicz did get a chance to see the famous image of marines raising the American flag at Mount Suribachi, and after a tenacious fight, the japanese were eventually defeated.
But the last sight that Swiatowicz witnessed at Iwo Jima still haunts him to this day.