SAN DIEGO -- Friday marked the 71st anniversary of the start of the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Retired LtCol. Thomas Kalus served in the Marine Corps for 27 years. "I'm proud of my service," he said as his voice cracked. "I just hope that the others don't have to do it."
"You never know how bad it is until you're been there," he added. "That's why some of these guys can't get over what they saw."
Kalus served in three wars. Like many, he cannot shake the sights and sounds of Iwo Jima.
"Bombs bursting in air was our illumination," Kalus added. "It lit up like the Fourth of July."
You would think Kalus has had his fill of gore, but he and dozens of survivors spent their day in an unexpected way. They watched hyper-realistic war scenes at Strategic Operations. It seemed a bit strange to have a group of 90-somethings sit through explosions so loud they needed earplugs, but the result was powerful.
It involved simulated RPG and vehicle-born IED attacks on the lot of Stu Segall Productions. About 750,000 military members and first responders have gone through the training.
Veterans I spoke with said they would have been better off had they been through the training.
"This is how you prepare people for war," Kalus said.