The St John’s Military School class of 1943, had eight graduating seniors. Like many other Old Boys, Fred Pate and H. Jerry Litz , were not just classmates., they shared their hopes and dreams with each other, along with troubles. They participated in sports together, they marched the bull ring (tear drop) together, they learned the drills of St. John’s, and like many other Old Boys, they thought of each other like brothers…. they had each other’s back.
After graduation, the two went their separate ways; vowing to stay in touch – just like many other Old Boys. Fred went to Syracuse University and Jerry onto a job. World War II was raging, so Fred decided to join the Marines. He was assigned to the Battle of Iwo Jima, a major battle, which the Marine Corps and Navy landed on and eventually captured the island from the Imperial Japanese Army. This five-week battle comprised some of the bloodiest and fiercest fighting. Jerry, on the other hand, joined the Army. His unit was also assigned to securing Iwo Jima after the Marines fought through. Little did each other know, they were literally miles apart – and serving proudly the country they loved. Both Old Boys thought of each other often.
Years later, Jerry reached out to Fred, who was living in Brookings, Oregon. A reunion was planned immediately. After much conversation about their lives, St John’s, life in Vail Hall, and the war, it was during this reunion they realized the Iwo Jima connection and how close they had fought to each other.
Jerry has since passed, and Fred is now living with his daughter in Discovery Bay, California. Fred cherishes his time and brothers while attending St. John’s. “I am deeply saddened the school has closed, as it was such a wonderful place to attend school, but it is the brotherhood that will always stay with all of us. Jerry was my best friend, stated Fred, with a tear in his eye.