MERLIN, Ore.– Two local Young Marines recently returned from the trip of a lifetime after they were part of a select few chosen to travel to Iwo Jima and Guam for the 73rd anniversary of the battle. As part of a long standing tradition, the trip was meant as a way to learn about history and to pay respects to all those that fought and lost their lives on the island.
For the last seven years, Master Gunnery Sergeant Molly Carino, 17, has devoted her time to the Rogue Valley Young Marines, a segment of the the national non-profit youth education program.
In that time, it’s helped define the person she is today.
“I started this program as an 11-year-old – really shy didn’t know how to speak in front of people,” said Carino. “But this program has helped me so much to become a better leader, a better speaker, a better person, stuff like that.”
In January, all of her hard work paid off when she was selected by the Young Marines national director to travel to Iwo Jima for the annual “Reunion of Honor.”
“It’s incredible! I wouldn’t have thought seven years ago that I would be in the spot where I am today,” said Carino. “Being able to get that phone call, ‘Hey I want you to be Director’s Choice for that trip,’ is like – ‘Whoa, that’s kinda like a shocker.'”
As one of 11 Young Marines from across the nation, Carino and her fellow Rogue Valley Young Marine, Master Gunnery Sergeant Ellie Trahern, 18, met with World War II veterans and attended memorial services honoring those who lost their lives.
“To see the beaches where the marines landed, to see where the flag raising – the iconic picture was right there – whoa that’s incredible,” said Carino. “Not a lot of people can say that, ‘I was there in that spot, I relived history.’ It was just so humbling and touching to be there in the moment.”
Carino says one of her highlights was speaking with veterans such as Woody “Hershel” Williams, a medal of honor recipient that joined the group while they traveled.
“To be able to hear their stories, see what they’ve done, get to know them a little more is something we can pass on through Young Marines especially,” said Carino. “And through kids in my generation for years to come.”
Trahern, who traveled as a Public Affairs Officer, was also struck by the stories told from the veterans and the memories they shared.
“In just speaking to the veterans I fully understood the sacrifices they were willing to make and the humbleness of all of the veterans together,” she said.
As for Carino, she returns to the valley to finish her last year in the program before she goes off to attend college in Pensacola, Florida. She says she plans on taking everything she’s learned with her.
“My time in the program is just been phenomenal,” she said. “One thing I’ve learned throughout my years is – leaders never stop learning – and as I have progressed throughout my last seven years, that has been my motto.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.