BOULDER, Colo. - One of the special guests at this year's BolderBoulder event on Monday was U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jack Thurman, a veteran of the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Thurman, of Longmont, grew up on a farm in South Dakota, the oldest of 15 kids, but he said he always knew he wanted to be a military man.
"The reason I wanted to get into the Marine Corps is because my uncle was in WWI and he was my inspiration -- I wanted to be like him," said Thurman.
So, Thurman said he saved his money from running the family milk route, bought a train ticket and enlisted at age 18.
"That was a whole new world for me -- the military -- and I was proud to be in the military," he said.
After recruit training, Thurman was sent to the Pacific to fight in the Battle of Iwo Jima. He said he remembers the morning he arrived on that beach amidst fierce fighting.
"When those doors opened up, everybody yelled 'gung ho!!' and thumbs went up," said Thurman. "I thought right away, 'Well I'm here, I want fight for my country.'"
Within seconds of that moment, Thurman said he was shot in the hip.
"The bullet went through the canteen cup and into the canteen and I think what saved me is that my canteen was full of water," he said.
For years, Thurman said he was not able to talk about the war, because the memories are too painful.
However, one day he realized the story should be told, so the sacrifices made wouldn't be lost through the generations.
"I am so thankful that I can talk about Iwo," he said.
Thurman spent a year and a half writing a book, telling his story without holding back.
"I didn't leave anything else out and that's the way I wrote that book. I probably misspelled some words, but I think the point got across," said Thurman.
He said the book was a way for him to honor his buddies who were lost at Iwo Jima.
"I want to talk about them. I want to remember them. You can't forget -- there's no way in hell you could forget those guys," Thurman said.
This Memorial Day at the BolderBoulder Thurman said he looked back with remembrance, but also looked forward with hope.
"All these young people out there, running and running, doing their thing for America and for the veterans, and my attitude is America's gonna be alright," he said.