At a mid-winter conference held in Holbrook, Arizona in late 1972, National Commander Joe L. Mathews of Texas presented a Post Charter for the new "Ira H. Hayes" Post 84 to the newly elected Post Commander, David Johnson, and Jay Morago, the newly elected Adjutant.
It is with sadness to report that In May of 2008 our first Adjutant and continuous member, Jay Morago, passed away at age 90 at the U.S. Veterans Administration Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Jay was an original member of the famed "Bushmasters" 158th Infantry jungle fighting unit which saw action in several Pacific island campaigns during WWII. After the war, Jay became the Governor of the Gila River Indian Community serving from 1954 through 1960. Jay was honored with formal services in the Governance Center Council Chambers with continuous honor guard from the Ira H. Hayes Post 84 of Sacaton and Haskell Osife Post 51 of Blackwater. It was an honor to all of us that our warrior comrade was laid to rest wearing his American Legion Color Guard uniform.
Ira Hamilton Hayes
Born: January 12, 1923, Sacaton, Arizona
Died: January 24, 1955 Bapchule, Arizona
Buried in Arlington National Cemetery
Our post's namesake was born in Sacaton and grew up the son of a poor farming family on the Pima Indian Reservation in Bapchule, Arizona. The Pima Tribe has always answered the call of our country in time of need and in WWII, Ira joined the U.S. Marine Corps. In fact, the Sacaton High School in 1943 had to cancel graduation as every male in the graduating class enlisted.
On February 23rd, 1945 a picture was taken that changed Ira's life forever. During the WWII battle on the tiny island of Iwo Jima, an American Flag was raised on a high point of Mount Suribachi. Ira went to help his comrades raise the flag and became a part of of one of the most famous photographs in history. This photograph of six men raising the flag went on to become a symbol for rallying the American public towards victory. Three of six men in the photograph died shortly after the photograph was taken. During the battle, Ira was one of 5 survivors of his 45 man platoon and was one of the 27 escaping death or injury of his 250 man company.
Unfortunately this instant notoriety resulted in Ira Hayes being brought back to the United States to be a part of the 7th War Bond Tour to raise money for the war. Ira did not think of himself as a hero as he was alive and believed that the real heroes where those brave comrades that gave their lives in battle. Ira discovered that his fame was rewarded not with job offers but with fancy dinners and drinks. Ira finally returned to the reservation but brought with him new problems brought on by this unwanted fame. Years earlier the U.S. Government had cut off the major water supply to the Pima Indian Reservation which caused extreme hardship for the people who had relied on farming as their source of making a living. There was little opportunity for a farming family without water, yet this was Ira's home. Ira tried to avoid the visitors who came to see "the Indian who raised the flag". During patriotic veteran's and military ceremonies, Ira would sit in his car watching from across the road to avoid unwanted attention.
In 1954, Ira Hayes attended the ceremony in Washington D.C. for the dedication of the "Iwo Jima Memorial", a bronze cast replica of the raising of the American Flag on Mount Suribachi. Tragically, Ira Hayes died 10 weeks after this ceremony.
Each year on the weekend closest to the date of the original raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi, the Ira H. Hayes American Legion Post 84 holds an Iwo Jima Ceremonial Event at the Ira H. Hayes and Mathew B. Juan Memorial Park in Sacaton.