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A Marine veteran builds memorial honoring lost lives in his front yard

Daughter of WWII Veteran featured in Iwo Jima flag-raising photo attends dedication ceremony
Published: Oct. 23, 2021 at 10:29 PM CDT
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LENA, Wis. (WBAY) - Normally, veteran memorials are found in parks or cemeteries. But for Marine veteran Mike Vizer, who served from 1989 to 1993, you can find one in his front yard in Lena, WI.

With the help of a GoFundMe, he built a one-of-a-kind memorial to honor marines from his unit, Suicide Charley, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.

Each dog tag on the display has the name of every Suicide Charley Marine killed in action, from WWII to present.

“Suicide Charley was one of the, is one of the most storied Marine Corp Infantry companies that has had numerous medal of honor winners. Some of the greatest heroes of the Marine Corp have been associated with Suicide Charley,” said Vizer.

Next to the display, Vizer built a recreation of the iconic flag-raising photo taken during the Battle of Iwo Jima that sits in Washington D.C.

“Just seeing the people and react to the monument, react to the dog tags, it really hit home, for me emotionally as well. I just think it was such a blessing to have everybody here, just be apart of that is very special, something I’ll never forget,” said Vizer.

Two years ago, the United States Marine Corps announced that for 74 years they had misidentified another one of the six fighting men in the photo.

It was actually Corporal Harold Keller in the photo that remains one of the most famous of all time, not Pfc. Rene Gagnon.

“There’s a lot more to him than just, he was the second man on the flag, he was a wonderful human being,” said Steve Maurer, son-in-law of Cpl. Harold Keller.

Harold Keller’s daughter, Kay Maurer, and his son-in-law, Steve, drove from Iowa to be at this dedication ceremony on Saturday morning.

“Growing up, once in awhile people would come up and say ‘I heard from my parents that your dad was on the Flag Raising,’ and I would go ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, he never talks about it,’” said Kay.

“Never told a soul that this ever happened, and we just discovered two years ago. But the amazing thing about the whole deal that I just cannot get past, is that how somebody can go to this war and see the terrible things that he saw four four years, come home, raise a family, the guy was as normal as anybody you’d see on the street,” said Steve.

After Keller survived he war, him and his wife, Ruby, had three children and raised them in Brooklyn, Iowa where Keller was born and lived his whole life.

“He was a tremendous father, he was very, very active, very involved in our lives, patience beyond a saint, and very involved in the community,” said Kay.

Keller died in 1979 from a heart attack, but his legacy will always live on.

“I love this, and I’m so honored that people want to recognize his war efforts. What Mike has done here is amazing. I hope the whole world comes and sees it, because it’s well done” said Kay.

Mike and with the help of his family, have built a beautiful memorial in their yard located at 6348 Logtown Rd. in Lena, WI.

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