WWII Veteran Donates Fallen Comrade TMs Class Ring

It has been a long time since the battle on the sands of Iwo Jima in 1945 but it is still clear in the mind of Glen Cleckler.

He is now in his eighties.

The World War II veteran still thinks of gunfire when he hears thunder.

You just automatically look. Am I standing up? No you go down, said Cleckler.

He was one of the lucky Marines from the Rio Grande Valley to make it out alive, serving alongside former classmate Harlon Block.

"When he transferred to Weslaco High School, we became real good friends," said Cleckler.

The two boys skipped class one day and ran into a marine recruiter.

They thought enlisting would be a good excuse for playing hooky, that little idea got them to Honolulu Harbor just before the battle at Iwo Jima.

It was there where the two had a heart to heart.

"He said before I forget it, I want you to do something for me. I said well what is it? I want you to give this ring to my mother," Cleckler recalled.

Block was hit by mortar fire and never made it back alive.

Retired Brigadier General Stephen Cheney is president of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen.

He says Block is included in what may be one of the most recognized symbols of WWII, the Iwo Jima monument.

"Harlon Block is the man at the base as you look at the flag, the guy who's all the way down, the marine at the bottom," said Cheney

Cleckler returned from the war but could not get his fallen comrade TMs mother to accept Block TMs class ring.

He kept wearing it for another 66 years, before donating the ring Thursday to the Marine Military Academy Museum.

It TMs a piece of history, a genuine piece of history, said Cheney.

Cleckler recalled his high school graduation speech, given when the two comrades began their journey from Weslaco to WWII.

"Wherever we go and whatever we might be doing at the time, we will never forget this occasion," said Cleckler.

The former Marine hopes handing over the ring will help generations to remember the sacrifices of his old friend.