Jefferson City lays to rest Iwo Jima veteran

All military funerals are special events, but the one that took place in Jefferson City on Thursday was particularly so.

Family and friends Thursday morning buried 90-year-old John Scheperle, a long-time bricklayer and contractor with a wartime resume that rises to the top.

When the funeral procession rolled past the state capitol, it passed under a giant flag raised by firefighters... and drew the salute of perhaps a hundred people who came out of the building to stand at attention.

"How old were you when you first learned that your grandfather had done something really special in life?" a reporter asked Scheperle's grandson.

"You know, he was a pretty humble guy," Mitch Scheperle said. "Maybe the last fifteen years."

John George Scheperle, Jr. grew up on a farm on Boonville Road in Jefferson City. He graduated from JC High School in 1943 and joined the Marine Corps the following year. By the following winter, he was headed to a small island about 750 miles south of Tokyo as part of the U.S. invasion force. It was called Iwo Jima.

"You really didn't grow up hearin' about it," Mitch Scheperle said. "You do a google search 'John Scheperle' and it's gonna tell the story pretty well."

Local historian Jeremy Amick says John Scheperle hit the beaches with the 3rd platoon of E Company's 28th regiment. Almost immediately, he took shrapnel in the arm from a Japanese mortar round. But the medics patched him up and sent in back into the action. As the 3rd charged up Mount Suribachi, the wound began to give Scheperle trouble and he was evacuated to a hospital ship. He left it to his platoon buddies to create one of the most enduring images of World War II, which was later recreated for the cameras and for history. Once treated, John Scheperle went back into the fight to secure Iwo Jima, only to be shot. This wound won him a second Purple Heart and a trip back to Hawaii for treatment. He left the service in '46 and came home to a quiet life in Jefferson City.

"Just to sit down and hear the stories that he has to tell is just amazing," retired USMC SSGT Joe McGrail said.

The community buried John Scheperle with full military honors. The Marine Corps headquarters dispatched a detachment of United States Marines from Fort Leonard Wood to conduct the graveside service. The rifles used in the 21-gun volley were World War Two-era M1's... the same as Scheperle carried into battle at Iwo Jima.

When asked what his grandfather would have thought of all the ceremony and honors, Scheperle laughed.

"He would have been probably the most embarassed guy out here," Mitch Scheperle said.

John Scheperle is survived by his wife, Carolyn, a daughter, two sons, eight grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

Funeral director Reid Millard put his grave next to the flagpole at the entrance to Hawthorne Gardens Cemetary, where the Marine Corps League intends to erect a formal monument in the near future.

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