Carson’s own flag lady
June 13, 2003
When six World War II soldiers reached the top of Mount Suribachi, they raised the first American flag to fly over captured Japanese soil.
Hazel Parkins, a 30-year Carson City resident, said she is nearly an expert on that moment.
She serves as flag chairwoman for the Washoe Zephyr chapter in Virginia City of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also served for seven years as a finance officer and auditor for the Army air force. Parkins is 88 years old.
Her small trailer in the Frontier Mobile Home Park on Winnie Lane is covered in her prized roses. American flags adorn the window. Flag address labels top all her important mail.
Parkins is eager to share information on her ancestry and her love for the country. Books and pictures of the flag cover her coffee table and she holds dearly a small weathered pamphlet on all state flags that was given to her when she was appointed flag chairwoman in 1999.
“It’s my flag bible,” she said. “My dedication to the flag has kept me going.”
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As June 14, National Flag Day, approaches, Parkins said she wants people to remember the significance of the flag.
“It’s such an important symbol,” Parkins said. “It means so much to so many people. When the flag went up at Iwo Jima men were weeping. Our families died for that flag and so have so many others.”
For the Daughters of the American Revolution’s April meeting, Parkins delivered a speech on the raising of the flags at Iwo Jima.
Iwo Jima was the costliest battle in U.S. Marine Corps history, killing 6,821 Americans. It was one-third of all Marine Corps losses in World War II.
Parkins flew over Mount Suribachi during her time in the service and she said she became fascinated with the location.
“It looked like a rock sticking up out of the ocean,” she said.
Parkins speaks much about the moments before the soldiers posted the flag on Feb. 23, 1945. They feared for their lives as they crawled to the top of the mountain, she said. Once they arrived they realized that there was no flag staff so they found some pipes that were the right size. One of the 100-pound pipes had a bullet hole on the top of it so the soldiers were able to hang the flag, she added.
But, for reasons that are still heatedly debated, the soldiers were ordered to take down the first flag and began to raise a second, larger flag — the 48-star flag featured in the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo taken by Joe Rosenthal, arguably the most memorable photo from the World War II era.
Parkins said the stories about Iwo Jima are abundant and she fears she may never have the complete account.
“My search is never ending,” she said. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes you never can find where a piece fits in.”
IF YOU GO
What: Carson City Elks Lodge No. 2177 annual Flag Day service
When: noon Saturday
Where: 515 N. Nevada St.