The label bore an insignia of the famous photograph of troops hoisting the American flag on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945.
Mr. Ciotta, a retired private first class, was present that day at Mount Suribachi, where the flag was raised during one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific theater.
“Of my squad of 14, every one of them got wounded or killed,” said Mr. Ciotta, who was shot in the leg.
“I was lucky because I’m bowlegged — it missed the bone,” he said on Tuesday night, the 71st anniversary of the flag raising, where Mr. Ciotta and his fellow Queens native Jack Seiferth, 93, were honored for their service on Iwo Jima.
Dr. Seiferth, a retired sergeant with the First Battalion, Fourth Marine Division, said he managed to survive the 36-day battle in part because while storming the beach, “the first three waves were wiped out, and I was in the fourth wave.”
Mr. Ciotta and Dr. Seiferth were being honored by a special Marine Corps detachment with a curious name: Romeo Unit 1, New York City.Romeo is an acronym for Retired Old Marines Eating Out. The unit’s mission is to meet every month or so for a meal and swap stories, to continue the traditions and camaraderie of the Marine Corps.
Members hold a larger dinner each February to honor the ever-dwindling number of local veterans of Iwo Jima, a historic battle that Marines generally regard as their finest combat moment.
“There’s a bond — we’re a family, so we take care of each other,” Mr. Ciotta said during the dinner, which was convened on Tuesday at Manducatis, a restaurant in Long Island City, Queens.
The Romeo group includes Marines — some active-duty, but most retired — from every major military campaign since World War II and from nearly every rank of service.
It is an eclectic, colorful group that includes high-level corporate executives, retired police officers and teachers, and even a few accomplished actors, including Joe Lisi, 65, a retired Marine corporal and New York City police captain who founded the group.
Mr. Lisi helped herd roughly 60 men to long tables near American and Marine Corps flags and brought the noisy room to order — the chatter stopped abruptly after a call of “Marines, ho!” — so that he could toast Mr. Ciotta and Dr. Seiferth.“We love you and you very much set the standard — Semper Fi,” he said, invoking the familiar Marine credo of loyalty.
Then, Col. James Iulo, an active-duty Marine commander, offered a toast to fallen soldiers and reminded the men that 27 Medals of Honor were awarded for actions on Iwo Jima, the most of any battle in Marine Corps history. And, he added, though many more American troops were injured than Japanese, about three times as many Japanese were killed. About 70,000 Marines fought on the island and nearly 7,000 were killed, according to the National WWII Museum.
To this, there was a unified shout of “Oorah!” — the battle cry of the Marines.A recording of taps was played, and standing along with the Marines was the owner of Manducatis, Vincenzo Cerbone, 86, a Marine veteran who served in the renowned First Infantry Division, sometimes called the Big Red One.
At a long table where several young active-duty Marines sat, Col. Christopher A. McPhillips, a military fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, was chatting with Gerry Byrne, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and current media executive.
Nearby were two other actors, John Doman and Wayne Scott Miller, who has worked as George Clooney’s stunt double. At the other end of the table was Dr. Seiferth, a retired college professor, who was talking with Dr. Theodore Laquercia, a psychoanalyst in Manhattan who served in Morocco as a private first class.What brings them all together is the credo of “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” said Colonel Iulo, who oversees Marine Corps recruiting for much of the East Coast, and who pointed to the Marines insignia on his hat, of an eagle, a globe and an anchor.
“Some of these guys have been out of the Marines for 50 or 60 years, but they still show up because, even though you may take off the uniform, the eagle, globe and anchor are tattooed on your heart,” said the colonel, immaculately turned out in his olive green service uniform — one that, he noted, has barely changed in a century.
If Colonel Iulo was a model of spit-and-polish Marine Corps decorum, there were also attendees in red Marine Corps satin bowling jackets. Then there was Tom Nerney, 76, a retired New York police detective from Queens who had squeezed into — with the help of a corset, he joked — his faded green uniform from 55 years ago.
“I can drop down and give you 20 push-ups,” Mr. Nerney said, “but you may have to get me into a chair afterward.”
Mr. Ciotta and Dr. Seiferth said most of the men they fought with on Iwo Jima had died in recent years.
Mr. Ciotta, who was a corporal and demolition specialist with the 28th Marine Regiment, Fifth Marine Division, recalled Iwo Jima as a special kind of hell, in which members of his unit slogged their way over soft volcanic ash and were easy targets for Japanese soldiers hidden in caves and tunnels, and firing from so-called pillbox battlements.
Mr. Ciotta, who was awarded the Purple Heart, was assigned to crawling up to the pillboxes and blowing them up.
“People call us the living history of World War II,” he said, holding his bottle of Jarhead Red, “but we did nothing more than what we were asked to do for our country.”
An earlier version of this article misidentified the unit to which Jack Seiferth, a retired Marine sergeant, belonged. Dr. Seiferth was with the First Battalion, 24th Marines, not the First Battalion, Fourth Marine Division.