Meet the Salem World War II veteran who survived Iwo Jima

Veterans Day is our day to honor those who served, both past and present

SALEM, Va. – Wednesday was Veterans Day, the day we as a nation give thanks to those who serve. And as another year goes by, there aren’t many of our oldest veterans still around.

In Salem, there’s one World War II veteran still spending his days on his front porch overlooking the mountain views. Bob Craighead joined the Marines at just 16 years old, and on this Veterans Day in 2020, decades later, he hasn’t forgotten.

“I went to a movie one night and it involved some Marines and I couldn’t wait until Monday to go volunteer," Craighead said.

He has large scrapbooks of photos, and for good reason. Pictures are good clues because dementia is starting to set in. He fought in Iwo Jima, coming home from the Pacific with a Purple Heart, just one of the few in his unit to survive.

“I saw such crazy things as a Japanese mortar landed where we had five marines. It landed right in the middle of five marines, and it killed five at one time, and I look back and saw it happen," Craighead said.

A life-long career in the railroad followed, as well as a loving family. Bob’s daughter Anne said her dad is her hero, and the stories are his legacy.

“It blows me out of the water and I can’t believe his parents didn’t stop him, you know as a mother myself I don’t know what I would say if my 16-year-old came home and said I just enlisted in the Marine Corps," Anne Craighead said.

The details are beginning to fade, but Craighead’s story is the same reminder. As they begin to forget, it’s even more reason for us to remember.

“I am sure am proud of the fact that I enlisted in the Marine Corps and I thoroughly enjoyed that," Craighead said.