Paul Justice, a Marine who served in Iwo Jima and Okinawa during World War II, was eager to see the United States Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C., last week during an Honor Flight, organized and paid for by the nonprofit Puget Sound Honor Flight.
The 86-year-old Centralia resident approached the monument memorializing the Marines who fought in Iwo Jima on Sunday, Oct. 13, but barricades kept the visiting veteran away.
The monument was closed due to the federal government shutdown.
“It broke my heart,” Justice said. “I wouldn’t have come if I had known I wouldn’t get to see it.”
As Justice and the other veterans on the Honor Flight started to lose hope in seeing the memorial, protesters broke through the barricade to allow the veterans access.
“We went around to where the barricade was and two men came down and threw the barricade,” Justice recalls. “We broke down the barrier. If we could take Mount Suribachi we can see the memorial that our blood won.”
Justice, a minister for more than 60 years, said he lead a prayer for the other World War II veterans while standing in front of the memorial.
“I was anointed by God,” Justice said. “I know I was not there by chance but because God wanted me to be there. My hour was to be there. I can’t tell you what I said. It just came from my heart, inspired by God. When it was all over, people shouted and prayed. We had a revival.”
Justice returned from the Honor Flight on Monday, Oct. 14. He and the other veterans were greeted at the Sea-Tac Airport by a large welcoming of military officers and citizens.
“You couldn’t believe how many people were there,” Justice said. “I couldn’t believe it, especially after I came back from the war and nobody paid attention.”
Justice’s wife, Violet Justice, was a part of the welcoming group.
Justice served in the Navy for two years and the Marines for another two years between 1942 and 1946. Justice, who grew up in an orphanage in Waynesville, N.C., forged his birth certificate at age 15 to get into the Navy. He was 108 pounds at the time, he said.
After serving in WWII, Justice used funds from the G.I. bill to study at Mars Hill College in North Carolina and then Furman University in South Carolina, graduating in 1954 with bachelor’s degrees in English and history.
“My hope was to come back to China to be a missionary, but I was only 18 years old,” Justice said. “I had only finished eighth grade. I knew I had to prepare myself.”
Justice met his wife at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., after graduating college.
Justice wrote about all of his life experiences in his book “Transformed From Grace,” published in 2009. He is ordering 100 more copies of his book to be sold at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis and the Lewis County Historical Museum.
More than a week after the honor flight, Justice is still recovering from the commotion of breaking down the barricade.
Violet Justice said her husband will never forget his experience in Washington, D.C.
“It was the highlight of his year, if not the highlight of his post-war years,” Violet Justice said.