Iwo Jima Marine vet fights the demons of war

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Ted Drews. a World War II veteran of Iwo Jima, had witnessed five of his fellow Marines and a Navy Corpsman plant the U.S. flag on Mount Suribachi, in Japanese territory.

He witnessed it from his strategic position on the water near the mountain.

“They were brave to be doing that out in the open,” he recalls.

While many are drawn to that iconic image that came to represent World War II, Drews continued to fight the demons of war long after the Japanese surrendered.

He was nineteen years old when he was shipped off to Guam, and then Iwo Jima.

His job was to carry supplies, and, if possible, transport the wounded and the dead.

The images he carried home with him in his head after the war, remained hidden from his family for the longest time.

“People aren’t buried with their arms across their chest,” he recalled. “They’re buried the way they’re found. Some are sitting up. Their arms and legs are extended, and it’s just awful to see the way these nice young guys died.”

So awful are some of the memories, that Ted would suffer from terrible depression. He sometimes withdraw from his family, and had fitful dreams. The condition would manifest itself has the month of February approached. That was the month in 1945 that the Battle of Iwo Jima began.

“I would have dreams, flaying my arms around in bed. Couple of times I fell out of bed fighting,” he said.

Ted’s wife, Phyllis, who was nurse at the VA Hospital in Buffalo for twenty years, didn’t even know what was bothering him.

She recalls he would “sit-off and stare” when he was going into a depression.

Ten years ago, at the age of seventy-nine, Ted was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The Drews’ younger son, a veteran of Iraq, who also dealt with the wounded in combat and became a grief counselor, suddenly realized why his father had suffered for so many years.

As Ted Drews approaches ninety, he is receiving counseling and is able to deal with memories of Iwo Jima. Nearly seven thousand Marines died during that thirty-six day battle. Twenty thousand were wounded.

“It’s been seventy years. That’s a long time. And a lot of the people weren’t lucky,” he  recalled on Memorial Day.

“I lost a lot of friends.”

While the demons of war haunted him subconsciously for most of his adult life, reminders of Iwo Jima never faded from public view.

“Whenever they show you World War II,” he said, “they show you the Iwo Jima flag.”

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