With the constant that has been my life these past few days, I did not have a chance to share about my encounter with a veteran last week. And seeing as today is the anniversary of the Marines flying the American flag over Mt. Suribachi, I feel today is a good day to share about my experience.
Last week, an older gentleman (probably in his nineties) visited the center wearing a hat that read "Iwo Jima Survivor." I greeted him and his son like I do with all visitors, let them look around. Before he left, however, I commented on his hat, thanked him for his service, and asked him who did he serve with? "The Marines," he responded. I smiled and said that I had visited a number of islands in the Pacific including Iwo Jima, and was familiar with many of the actions in the Pacific theater. He had more questions about what the islands were like now than answers for my questions. He shared several light-hearted stories about his time overseas, not focusing too much on the fighting. I didn't think to ask his name. But I feel very fortunate that I got to speak to him, albeit briefly.
The generation that lived during World War II continues to pass away at rates faster than even I can fathom. Unfortunately, so do their stories. Soon enough, we will be scrambling to capture memories of those who lived through the Korean War, through the 1950s and 1960s, our engagement with Vietnam, the Civil Rights movements, and well, time keeps marching on. My historian self wants to capture it all! But I can't. So I work to preserve that of which I can in the ways I know best. And I keep sharing my passion with others in hopes to spark interest, too.
I also wistfully dream of returning to the Pacific. Probably because my interest in history is tied to both the people and the places of history. And the scattering of islands spread throughout that expansive, brilliantly blue ocean call my name. Hmm, maybe one day I will have the opportunity to go back. I think it's time for me to start rereading my books on the Pacific theater...
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