Lexington VA facilities to carry names of Ky. Marines at Iwo Jima

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) - Lexington’s two Veterans Administration facilities will soon be named for central Kentucky Marines who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.


The Leestown Road Campus will be named in memory of Franklin R. Sousley of Flemingsburg, while the Cooper Drive Campus will be renamed to honor Troy Bowling of Lexington.


The renaming of the two VA facilities follows the enactment of H.R. 4533, introduced by Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr, R-Lexington, last December. It quickly passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump in March.


“We can never repay Pvt. First Class Franklin Sousley and Pvt. Troy Bowling for their service to our nation, but renaming these VA campuses in their honor will ensure their memory and sacrifices are never forgotten,” Barr said.  “I applaud the work of the Sixth District Veterans Coalition for bringing this idea to my attention.”


According to the language of H. R. 4533, Sousley, who was born on Sept. 19, 1925, in Hilltop, Kentucky, graduated from Fleming County High School in May 1943 and chose to enlist in the United States Marine Corps.


He landed on Iwo Jima on Friday, Feb. 19, 1945, and actively fought in the battle for the islands. Four days later, during the intense fighting, Sousley, along with five others, raised a huge United States flag on Mount Suribachi, so it could be seen over the island.


The iconic photograph taken of the six men, while they raised the United States flag attached to a heavy Japanese pipe has led to an immortalized symbol of American bravery, perseverance, and sacrifice endured by members of the United States Armed Forces during the intense battles of World War II.


Pfc. Sousley was killed in combat by a Japanese sniper around Kitano Point on March 21, 1945.


Bowling was born on July 2, 1926, in Hamilton, Ohio, and began his Maine career at the age of 17.  His unit was among the first to arrive on the beachheads of Iwo Jima.


During the battle, Bowling was shot in the chest and leg, leaving him critically wounded.  At that moment, Bowling said he looked to the heavens and committed to serving mankind for the rest of his life if he survived.


A combat photographer and medical team carried him to the safety of a landing craft where he witnessed the planting of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi.


In keeping faith with his commitment to God made during that battle, Bowling devoted more than 78,000 hours of volunteer service to others at the Lexington VA Medical Center before his death in June 2017 at the age of 90.


The Aug. 9 ceremony will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Leestown Road campus.

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