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Marine from Monticello helped raise U.S. flag during Battle of Iwo Jima

Marine from Monticello helped raise U.S. flag during Battle of Iwo Jima
Marine from Monticello helped raise U.S. flag during Battle of Iwo Jima
Posted at 5:31 AM, Nov 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-09 01:58:13-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - It's an iconic photograph, the United States Marines raising an American Flag during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Something you may not know is one of those Marines is a Monticello native.

WTXL ABC 27's Jada Williams was live Friday morning with details on how the town plans to honor him.

Driving through Monticello, you'll see a marker showcasing the U.S. flag being placed in Iwo Jima.

Thanks to a local veteran, Ernest "Boots" Thomas will forever be remembered in the town.

It's one of the most talked about World War II moments, when the U.S. flag was raised in Iwo Jima in 1945.

Monticello native Ernest "Boots" Thomas helped raised the first U.S. flag that morning, one that was replaced with a larger flag by that afternoon.

A couple of weeks later and just days before his 21st birthday, Thomas died in combat.

Dr. James Sledge and Thomas were inseparable. Even when the war split them apart, they continued to write letters to each other.

"We never had an argument. I tried to go back and see if there was anything that we ever disagreed on, but we never did have any disagreements."

Dr. Sledge felt that his friend's contributions to the country were too big to go unnoticed.

"For so many years, nothing was being done to recognize that his group was the first to raise the flag on Iwo Jima," Sledge said.

He set out to spread the word about Monticello's war hero.

"For a period of time, it was just word of mouth. I would go to speak to schools, clubs around monticello and tallahassee and tell about Boots."

By 1981, the wall remembering the men who raised the flag went up, featuring the hometown hero front and center.

"We're proud to be able to promote him. There's pictures on the CHamber Wall, he's buried in our local cemetery."

But he felt that even more should hear Boots' story.

The book, Call Me No Hero, is a collection of letters and pictures that helps tell the story of the man that Monticello calls their hero.

Now Ernest "Boots" Thomas legacy lives on thanks to his childhood friend and his hometown.

If you want to learn more about Boots Collins, the book is available for purchase at the Monticello Chamber of COmmerce or you can buy it at bootsthomas.com