LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — On Friday, Feb. 14, Troy Bowling, a Laurel County native and U.S. Marine veteran, was honored for his volunteer work, more than 73,000 hours worth accumulated over 63 years.
In 1951, Bowling began volunteering at the Lexington Veteran Affairs (VA) Medical Center and with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) who had visited him while he was receiving treatment there.
During an awards presentation at the Lexington VA Medical Center, Bowling received a Challenge Medal from Director Emma Metcalf. The Challenge Medal is a symbol of excellence. It was stamped with the number “69,” marking the number of years since Bowling’s service at Iwo Jima.
Sunday marks the 69 year anniversary of the historic moment when five U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman were photographed raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Bowling almost 19 at the time, was there that day, serving with Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. He and his fellow Marines were among the first to land on Iwo Jima and were met with heavy resistance.
On the second day of fighting, Bowling’s unit sustained heavy casualties during an artillery strike. Most of the men in his unit were killed. As Bowling and his comrades continued to fight a well fortified enemy in hopes of taking control of Mount Suribachi, Bowling was shot in the chest and in the leg.
He was left for dead.
“I lost a lot of blood,” Bowling recalled. “I appeared lifeless. I remember looking up to heaven and telling God that if I survived, I would serve mankind for the rest of my life.”
Bowling did survive, thanks to a combat photographer who saw him raising his hand and then called for his evacuation.
As medics were treating his wounds aboard ship, Bowling recalls hearing shouts of joy.