One local man worked effortlessly for months helping to ensure that a fellow Marine, almost two hours away, would receive proper honors.
On July 13 Greg Sims along with approximately 30 others, attended a proper memorial with full honors for U.S. Marine Pvt. Carl Strong who died March 14, 1945 in the battle of Iwo Jima.
And although Strong was buried three times, this is believed to be the only time he received his honors.
In the Tri-County, many know Sims, (the commandant of the J.C. Paul Detachment of the Marine Corps League in Corbin) for his service with the Toys for Tots charity, but most recently he has spent his time helping honor fellow marine, Pvt. Strong.
Sims who served as an artillery instructor in the Marine Corps from 1967 to 1969, has been honored for his service to his country and works to ensure all others are as well.
When Sims was contacted by Patrick Godsey about Pvt. Strong, Sims was ready and willing to help, reaching out to a plethora of resources and contacts to put together a service.
Strong of Bulan died fighting for his country when a Japanese sniper rose from a hidden position firing a round into the chest of Strong. He was buried on Iwo Jima along with nearly 7,000 other Marines who died in combat on the island.
“He probably had no last rites to speak of,” said Sims “Carl laid at rest in Iwo Jima for some three years.”
Sims said after that, his body was returned and laid to rest in a family plot in Bulan. However, in the 1980s, a coal company bought the family land and moved his body to an unrecorded location in Jackson, where he remains.
Godsey’s father and Strong grew up together near Hazard. Godsey and his dad made it their mission to find Strong’s remains and finally pay tribute to him. With the help of Sims this day finally came.
On July 13, Strong received full military honors surrounded by relatives, friends and fellow Marines during a memorial service held in Jackson.
Sims said in putting the memorial together he was going to do whatever it took to give Strong his final honors, including walking up three steep switchbacks to find the gravesite.
Sims said the day of the memorial it was hot and muggy but thanks to a Breathitt County magistrate who cleared a road and some local firefighters who chauffeured guests via all terrain vehicles the trek to cemetery was a little easier.
Kentucky National Guard Chaplain (Capt.) Tyler Shields of the 103rd Chemical Battalion presided over the service.
“This memorial was significant because it shows that it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Shields said in a press release. “It hits at the very core of our values; that we will never leave a fallen comrade even if 74 years have passed. Although he was forgotten for too many years, he wasn’t forgotten forever. Now, his service and sacrifice will always be remembered and he can finally rest in peace as an American hero.”
Sims is grateful for Shields, not only for his willingness to proceed over the service but for taking the lead when Sims fell ill due to the intense heat of the day. Shields took the lead for Sims.
“Being part of this memorial is among the top few experiences I’ve had in my military career. I was humbled to play a small part in honoring the sacrifice of this great American. It was a unique opportunity to link the past with the present,” said Shields. “Few in my generation will have the opportunity to honor someone of the Greatest Generation, let alone one that fell during such a historic battle. I will never forget this experience.”
Sims said it was only right that he and the others make sure Strong’s gravesite was found and propers honors were given.
“It’s documented, it’s clean and neat and there's access to it now,” Sims said. “We brought him back for a day. It was emotional but it was also relief. We think Carl would have been very happy. We think Carl’s parents would have been very happy.”
Godsey, along with the Department of Kentucky, Marine Corps League and J.C. Paul Detachment #1448 Commandant Greg Sims were instrumental in finding Strong and planning the memorial service.