Legacy Trees seeks to honor Marines killed at Iwo Jima with koa forest

Updated: Mar. 4, 2020 at 5:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - During the World War II battle for control of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, 6,821 Marines were killed.

The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative wants to honor the fallen.

“That freedom that they fought for and gave their lives for we want to steward it well,” said Jason Hoopai, who heads up the non-profit’s planting of an Iwo Jima Memorial Legacy Forest on the Big Island’s Hamakua coast.

"Each one of those fallen will have dog tags and a tree that will be planted in their name. We're encouraging folks to sponsor those trees," he said.

Sponsorship for each koa tree planted is $90. Thirty dollars from every donation helps The Veterans Movement Foundation's effort to assist veterans in Hawaii and other groups.

“We have veterans service organizations that have programs that support the high school ROTC programs, they support programs for children’s education, they support veterans that are in need of assistance and help,” said Veterans Movement chairman Carl Vincenti.

Hoopai said the rest of the money will go to growing the koa forest.

"Every dollar that we use helps us rebuild our natural habitat," he said.

Tree sponsors will receive a certificate with the name of the Marine the tree planting honors, including information for tracking the tree's growth.

"As we continue to build in data for these trees we want the tree to tell a story, tell the story about those who planted it and its meaning," Hoopai said.

As part of the project, Hawaiian Legacy presented The Veterans Movement with a koa framed original drawing from the sculptor who created the Marine Corps Memorial. HLRI also plans to donate a koa frame that will hold replicas of the dog tags of every Marine killed at Iwo Jima.

Vincenti, a retired Marine, is honored.

"This is special. This has been put together in a special way," he said.

Marine Sgt. Henry Hansen was killed at Iwo Jima and is buried at Punchbowl. One of the first trees to be planted in the koa forest has been dedicated to him.

To learn how you can sponsor an Iwo Jima Project tree planting go to LegacyTrees.org/veterans.

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