Flag ceremonies across the suburbs, country honor last request of Iwo Jima veteran

  • Elwood "Woody" Hughes' daughter, Emily Hughes of Round Lake Beach, sitting, and granddaughter Ashley Richardson of Rolling Meadows attended Tuesday's ceremony.

      Elwood "Woody" Hughes' daughter, Emily Hughes of Round Lake Beach, sitting, and granddaughter Ashley Richardson of Rolling Meadows attended Tuesday's ceremony. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Trevor Baker, Sgt. Aaron Alexander Gibbs and Staff Sgt. Christopher Carranza raise the flag Tuesday at Maine West High School in Des Plaines to honor Elwood "Woody" Hughes and mark the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

      U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Trevor Baker, Sgt. Aaron Alexander Gibbs and Staff Sgt. Christopher Carranza raise the flag Tuesday at Maine West High School in Des Plaines to honor Elwood "Woody" Hughes and mark the 76th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Hughes was a former Maine West High teacher and coach.

    Hughes was a former Maine West High teacher and coach. Courtesy of Mike Huttner

  • Hughes served in the Marines from 1943 to 1946.

    Hughes served in the Marines from 1943 to 1946. Courtesy of Rich Witt

  • The University of Kentucky Army and Air Force ROTC conducted a flag ceremony Tuesday morning to honor Iwo Jima veterans including Woody Hughes. Before his death three weeks ago in Lexington, Hughes' last request was for schools to raise a flag on the 76th anniversary of the historic flag raising he witnessed.

    The University of Kentucky Army and Air Force ROTC conducted a flag ceremony Tuesday morning to honor Iwo Jima veterans including Woody Hughes. Before his death three weeks ago in Lexington, Hughes' last request was for schools to raise a flag on the 76th anniversary of the historic flag raising he witnessed. Courtesy of University of Kentucky

  • The sign in front of Trinity Lutheran Church, 675 E. Algonquin Road in Des Plaines, honors Marine Corps veteran and former Maine West High School teacher/coach Woody Hughes.

    The sign in front of Trinity Lutheran Church, 675 E. Algonquin Road in Des Plaines, honors Marine Corps veteran and former Maine West High School teacher/coach Woody Hughes. Courtesy of John Stoffregen

  • The staff at John Hersey High School who are milittary veterans and an Arlington Heights police officer/veteran raise a flag Tuesday to honor Woody Hughes and Iwo Jima veterans.

    The staff at John Hersey High School who are milittary veterans and an Arlington Heights police officer/veteran raise a flag Tuesday to honor Woody Hughes and Iwo Jima veterans. Courtesy of Jim Miks

  • Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton raises a flag at his Glenview home Tuesday morning in honor of Woody Hughes and other Iwo Jima veterans.

    Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton raises a flag at his Glenview home Tuesday morning in honor of Woody Hughes and other Iwo Jima veterans. Courtesy of Scott Britton

  • Hoffman Estates village leaders gather Tuesday morning outside village hall for a flag raising to honor Woody Hughes and others who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

    Hoffman Estates village leaders gather Tuesday morning outside village hall for a flag raising to honor Woody Hughes and others who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Courtesy of Village of Hoffman Estates

 
 
Posted2/24/2021 5:00 AM

Elwood "Woody" Hughes intended to raise a flag at a local school Tuesday, 76 years to the day he witnessed his fellow Marines make history with their iconic flag-raising during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The 95-year-old veteran and longtime high school educator, who died three weeks ago, never got the chance to salute Old Glory one last time on that anniversary date.

 

But it was his dying wish that others would remember what happened that day on Mount Suribachi, and honor the nearly 7,000 men who never came home, by raising flags of their own -- at schools, churches, businesses, government buildings and homes.

On Tuesday morning, dozens throughout the suburbs -- and perhaps hundreds nationwide and beyond -- honored Hughes' last request.

"He would be honored that everybody's come out to do this," said his daughter, Emily Hughes, who attended a flag ceremony at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, where her dad taught and coached from 1959 to 1983.

Just as three active-duty Marines in their dress blues prepared to unfurl and raise a flag in front of Maine West's entrance, Hughes received a video on her phone from her brother in Lexington, Kentucky, where University of Kentucky ROTC students has just finished a ceremony honoring their father and other Iwo Jima veterans.

Woody Hughes, a longtime Wheeling resident, had gone to live with his son and family in Kentucky in recent months.

With the help of newspapers, social media, email chains among veterans' groups and word-of-mouth, Hughes' last request began to spread over the past week.

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About 30 veterans gathered at American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights Tuesday morning to salute Woody Hughes, a longtime member of the Northwest Suburban Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Mayor Tom Hayes, an Army veteran, was among those to pay tribute to Hughes.
About 30 veterans gathered at American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights Tuesday morning to salute Woody Hughes, a longtime member of the Northwest Suburban Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Mayor Tom Hayes, an Army veteran, was among those to pay tribute to Hughes. - Courtesy of Greg Padovani

Greg Padovani, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee of Arlington Heights, sent an email about the planned flag tribute to his veterans network a little more than a week ago. By Tuesday afternoon, after Padovani got back from a flag ceremony attended by about 30 veterans at American Legion Post 208 in Arlington Heights, he already had received nearly 60 emails from veterans groups with photos and videos of their flag ceremonies.

He expected that number to only grow in the coming days, having received confirmation of about 100 flag ceremonies taking place in locations as far as Florida, California and even Germany.

Members of the University of Kentucky Army and Air Force ROTC raised a flag Tuesday morning to honor Iwo Jima veterans, including Woody Hughes, who was an eyewitness to the historic flag-raising in 1945. Members of the Hughes family attended the ceremony in Lexington.
Members of the University of Kentucky Army and Air Force ROTC raised a flag Tuesday morning to honor Iwo Jima veterans, including Woody Hughes, who was an eyewitness to the historic flag-raising in 1945. Members of the Hughes family attended the ceremony in Lexington. - Courtesy of University of Kentucky
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"They're still streaming in. These people I have never heard of before are sending me these photos saying it was an honor to commemorate Woody," said Padovani, who got to know Hughes from his involvement in Memorial Day and veterans events in town. "The internet is the tool or the channel, but it's the people themselves. It just gives you goose bumps."

In recent years, Hughes enjoyed talking about his experiences in World War II during lectures at local schools, and in imparting the value of civics to youths. He was scheduled to speak to his old school, Maine West, before COVID-19 hit.

That's why his daughter Emily said it was important for her to be there Tuesday.

"He decided that he needed to make that his mission to get the word out," she said. "He's done that, till his dying day."

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