- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2015

Three U.S. Marines who took down the flag at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, have returned to see the flag raised again, 54 years later.

On Jan. 4, 1961, James Tracy, Mike East and Larry Morris removed the flag outside the embassy in a silent ceremony while hundreds of Cubans, hoping to obtain a visa to the U.S., watched the U.S. flag being lowered for what many thought would be the last time in Cuba.

Now the three former Marines have been called back to Cuba to finish the job they never wanted to do in the first place and raise the flag over Havana as the U.S. officially reopens its embassy Friday in the Cuban capital.

“I think about it every night now,” Mr. East said in a video recorded by the White House ahead of the event. “Seeing that flag go back up.”

The act of taking down the flag was routine, but the implications were enormous.

“I didn’t have any particular thoughts,” Mr. Tracy recalled, “We were just taking the flag down.”

The Marines recalled being surprised by the suddenness of the embassy closure and didn’t expect it to last long.

“Three years, I figured,” Mr. Tracy told CNN.

“We knew we were closing it up, but we had no idea as to all the particulars behind it,” Mr. East said. “As far as I was concerned, it was a sad day.”

All three former Marines have fond memories of their brief time on the island and their interactions with the Cuban people before the U.S. cut diplomatic ties with the country.

“I was just there four and a half months but I enjoyed the people and Cuba better than any place I’ve ever been,” Mr. Morris said in the White House video.

“I thought it was a paradise,” Mr. East told CNN.

The trio won’t be expected to physically raise the flag this time around — that will be done by current Marines, as it should be, Mr. Tracy said.

“That’s their job now,” he said, CNN reported. “They’ll be protecting [the flag] just like we did in our time. It’s going to be there. It’s going to stay there. I hope.”

Now, 54 years later, raising the flag is still a routine act for the Marine, but the implications in Cuba are enormous.

“It’s one more step for peace,” Mr. Tracy said, CNN reported.

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