ARLINGTON HEIGHTS (WLS) -- World War II Marine veteran Elwood "Woody" Hughes died on Monday, Feb. 1. Hughes was one of the last living Chicago area natives to have witnessed the American flag raising on Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima.
"We're saying goodbye to a great Marine - a very personal, good friend of mine - Woody Hughes," said friend and fellow Marine veteran John Colas.
After completing his military service, Hughes became a physical education teacher and baseball coach in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He coached Colas as a high school student half a century before they reunited and developed a close friendship.
"Woody and I got together again 56 years after we first met on the baseball fields of Maine Township High School," Colas said. "Neither one of us remembered who we were. That's how much an impression I made on him."
At his memorial service, Chicago area Marines paid tribute by placing a rose beside the casket and saluting their fellow veteran. Hughes's son, Bill, called his father "a light."
"He was part of what Tom Brokaw would call 'the greatest generation,'" Hughes said of his father.
According to his son, Hughes had one event on his calendar this year.
"He was going to go over to a local school that was closed because of COVID. And he was going to raise the flag at 10 o'clock on Tuesday, February 23," Bill Hughes said.
February 23, 2021, marks the 76th anniversary of the American flag raising at Iwo Jima.
"He was hoping to start a movement," Hughes said.
Colas said that his late friendship with Hughes changed and enriched both of their lives in surprising ways.
"So goodbye, Woody. Semper Fi. See you in a few years," Colas said.
Iwo Jima Marine veteran dies at 95, was witness to flag raising on Mount Suribachi
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