The Marine Corps has called off the 75th anniversary reunion for surviving veterans of the Battle of Iwo Jima amid growing concerns of the rapidly spreading novel coronavirus, Marine officials confirmed.
More than 20 veterans of the battle, along with the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, were expected to attend. Task & Purpose was the first to report.
The small volcanic island in the Pacific, which now houses a Japanese military installation, plays host each year to veterans and active-duty Marines to honor the 37-day battle’s survivors and the approximately 7,000 Marines who were killed.
Appropriately named the Reunion of Honor, the ceremony has been attended on the island by both American and Japanese veterans nearly every year since 1980.
“Out of an abundance of caution due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the 75th Reunion of Honor event on Iwo Jima which was scheduled to occur 28 March has been cancelled,” III Marine Expeditionary Force spokesman Lt. Ryan Bruce said.
Most recent statistics puts the number of reported cases of coronavirus at more than 100,000 people worldwide, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
As of publication, more than 300 cases of coronavirus have been reported in the United States. Fifteen of those have been fatal. Nearly 3,500 people worldwide have died from the virus.
Ongoing reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to list the elderly population and adults with compromised immune systems as those most vulnerable to the virus.
President Donald Trump signed a $8.3 billion emergency spending bill Friday that will go toward combating the spread of the virus and setting up a remote health care program.
“We’re signing the $8.3 billion,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “I asked for $2.5 and I got $8.3. I’ll take it.
“We’re doing well, but it’s an unforeseen problem,” Trump added. “It came out of nowhere, but we’re taking care of it.”
To date, one U.S. service member has tested positive for the corona virus. The 23-year-old soldier stationed in South Korea is currently being quarantined at his off-base home.
As for the surviving Iwo Jima veterans, the option of rescheduling for a later date remains on the table.
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.