BOSTON (WWLP) – It was Iwo Jima day Tuesday at the State House.

This year marks the 78th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Military members, veterans, and their families gathered to remember this pivotal day in history.

In 1945 the Marine Corps invaded the island of Iwo Jima, Japan on February 19th and the battle for the island lasted for 36 days. Some 70,000 Marines landed on the island and made strategic moves to gain access to Japanese-controlled airfields. There were about 26,000 casualties that resulted in nearly 7,000 deaths.

Tuesday, the marines who gave their lives were honored for their service. Two Iwo Jima Veterans, Lawrence Kirby and Walter O’Malley were given the opportunity to speak about their time on the battlefield.

“I saw young marines risk their lives, and deliberately give their lives, for their friends, because they loved them. So that was the lesson I learned, love is the most valuable thing,” said Kirby.

Also in attendance, Gold Star families, and members of the navy and army. Awards were also presented to Major General Gary Keef and Navy veteran Herb Chambers. This was the first time Iwo Jima day was held in person since 2020, making it extra special.