Lt. Col. Alfred "Al" Carroll was a young Marine when he witnessed five men lift the American flag above Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945, during World War II. Carroll died Wednesday. He was 91 years old.
A funeral service was held on Monday at the Leak Memorial Chapel. He was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Doris Carroll, and is survived by his daughters, Sandra Howie, Cynthia Wood and Susan Mustin; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grand children.
Susan Mustin lived down the street from her father to take care of him and grew up hearing his stories. Most were humorous.
"There's one story in particular that we liked to hear. He was in the Marine Corps and his brother was in the Army Air Corps. They got in an argument about where to eat and a group of Army enlisted guys came to my uncle's aide and started to rough up my dad. That's when my uncle bellowed, 'Unhand him! He's my kid brother.'
"We always got a laugh out of that."
Not only did he have a sense of humor, but Carroll was "very noble," worked so his wife could raise their family, fought hard for his country and honored his friends who served and died in the war, said Mustin.
Carroll was only a mile away when the iconic photo was shot of Iwo Jima as five U.S. Marines and one sailor raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi during World War II. The flag could be seen on top of the mountain, rising 500 feet in the air.
Carroll told the Montgomery Advertiser in previous interviews that a celebration erupted down below.
"When the flag went up, it was almost like a football game with all the cheering," Carroll said. "You could hear them all over the island, and ships blowing their horns."
Born in 1925 on a farm in Clayton, north of Montgomery, Carroll entered the Marine Corps at age 18 after he and his two older brothers heard that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. His sisters served in the medical field.
He was 20 and serving in the Marine 4th Division when the flag was raised. Iwo Jima was bombed 70 straight days by B-24s and is considered the bloodiest battle of the war in the Pacific. Carroll would never miss an opportunity to recognize his friends who lost their lives there when sharing his own story.
"My buddies paid the supreme sacrifice and did not have the chance to have a family and come back home like I did," Carroll said. "I've been blessed all my life."
Carroll returned to the island in 1980.
Discharged in 1946 as a corporal, Carroll began working for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., in 1947 before returning to Alabama. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Auburn University and taught criminal justice for 20 years.
He continued to serve in the military for a total of 40 years and retired from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 1978. Carroll retired from the USAFR as a civilian 10 years later and attended Evangel Christian Church for 30 years.