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Location: Phoenix, AZ, United States

Christian, wife, mother, writer, artist, teacher, published author. I love to write Christian fiction and non-fiction.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

My Salute to Survivors

I went hiking last night up a small mountain here in Phoenix: North Mountain.

When I write, "last night" it sounds like it was dark, but at 7pm there was still plenty of sunlight.

I ran up the mountain's paved road and did some deep thinking, as I usually do when I am running. I think that is why I love to run so much! My husband doesn't understand how I leave as soon as he gets home to go "run up a mountain". After spending all day with my 9 yr. old son, I need and crave the solitude.

Anyways, the mountain is a smaller one, but it is a tough run. The inclines are pretty steep at times and just when you feel like your lungs and legs are about to explode, the road becomes straight and you get a break before the next hill.

My thoughts were on the books I just finished reading: "My Hitch in Hell" and "Bataan" . Both were written by survivors so you get a first-hand account. I've tried to read books by historians and their thoughts on Bataan, but I just can't get into them knowing that the author never even served in the military.

As I was huffing and puffing up the next hill, I thought about what these men went through.....many of them enlisted to beat the draft so they could choose where they wanted to serve. They had left jobs, family, and the effects of the Great Depression behind them with hopes of serving for year or so then coming back to the US to finish college and get on with life. Most were in their 20's.

When these men landed in the Philippine Islands, they had no idea what was about to happen to them. Their real life accounts were over shadowed by Pearl Harbor. Indeed, I had no idea that Japan attacked Clark Air Field the next day! The Japanese were pretty much drained after the Rape of China and needed the P.I. and other Pacific Islands. The Commander of the attack assured his Emperor that the P.I would be Japan's after one month.

It took 4 months.

Our soldiers in the P.I held off the Japanese even though they were suffering from dysentery, malaria, and starvation. Why were they weakened by these factors? Because FDR ordered MacArthur to leave the P.I and head to Australia and regroup. So, MacArthur left 75,000 US soldiers and Filipino soldiers alone on the islands with only the food and medical supplies they had with them. No reimbursements were coming.

After four months of fighting, the remaining generals were ordered to surrender. It would be the first surrender of American forces in our nation's history. The Japanese took all the leftover food supplies, medical supplies, and ammunition.

As I huffed and puffed up the mountain, I thought about these poor soldiers. Imagine if that happened now, today, in Iraq.

All our soldiers and Marines are left behind by their commanding officers with only the food and medical supplies left on the bases and nothing else coming.

Then, imagine our President ordering these soldiers and Marines to surrender to the insurgents (or "revolutionaries" to Michael Moore...) as the US commanding officers are in Turkey regrouping and planning the attack.

If you think the insurgents and terrorists who beheaded the hostages are bad....then you need to read about how the Japanese soldiers treated their POW's...namely, our US soldiers.

The Japanese had tried all their torture devices and methods out on the Chinese and had pretty much perfected them by the time they met up with our soldiers in 1942. Many of the authors stated that they had heard about the Japanese atrocities in China and were very scared about surrendering to them. But they had no choice. The fact that they had surrendered made many of the survivors feel like losers. There were no parades for them when they got home.

So, as I make it to the top of this small mountain and watch a summer storm roll over the city of Phoenix. I am in awe. Arizona has some fantastic Summer storms because of all the dust in the air. These dust particles reflect the light of the sun and make some spectacular sunsets. As the large dark blue clouds roll in, they cover the sun as it tries to set and the rays of the sun force their way through the clouds. The rays stream down over the the glory of God.

I sat on this bench that is on the top of the mountain. (It was dedicated by the family members of a local artist who died young.) As I sat on the bench, my thoughts turn to CBFTW, Kevin (Boots on the Ground), Chris Missick, Blackfive, and Major Bellon (The Greenside) all military and all serving in Iraq.

I said a prayer for them and thanked God that these men have not been abandoned over there. Their Commander-in-Chief will not order them to surrender. They will not have to be tortured by their enemy without a fight. They will not have to work in POW camps anytime soon and pray for their next meal to come. Don't get me wrong, they are indeed in harm's way....there is a real enemy out there who want these fine men dead.

I sat and thanked the Lord for these men who are willing to volunteer and fight for their country. It left me in awe again. I prayed for their safety and for God not to remove His hand of protection over them. I asked God for a hedge of protection around their bases, the IP police stations, and our embassy. The privilege of prayer is not taken for granted by this hiker.

I looked around our city and took in the cool breezes. A cool breeze in August here in Phoenix is a gift of God. They are few and far between.

I am a better person for having read about these soldiers who survived one of the most horrific events in World War II. As painful as it was to read about one being hanged by his thumbs for 2 days followed by his testicles for another day....after being beaten for an hour by the Japanese, it has to be read. It has to be written about. I have to tell others about it. These men wrote their stories so others can read them and learn from them. I am a better person for having read many of the soldier blogs everyday. Their stories must be read and treasured as well.

I made my way back down the mountain and passed families making their way up. I passed some women talking on cell phones as they hiked down. I eaves dropped on their conversation about school and grocery shopping. I passed one elderly man on his way back up the mountain for the 3rd time! He had to be about 68 yrs. old and he was running up the mountain for the 3rd time that evening!! Amazing. I passed a woman walking her dog (poor dog..) up the mountain.

And I think: how blessed we are that this War on Terror hasn't affected us in the slightest.

Imagine the President telling us that we have to ration gasoline, sugar, steaks, and COFFEE. Imagine Starbuck's reaction to that one! Imagine us in 2004 using ration stamps to buy meat. The ACLU would be all over that! This country would go into shock.

But here we are in Phoenix, Arizona enjoying an evening hike without a care in the world. Except thoughts are on these survivors of the Bataan Death March. My legs were tired from my run, but I tried to imagine what these men went through on that 68 mile "hitch-in-hell", indeed. If the dysentery or thirst didn't kill them, the Japanese soldiers did. They beheaded or shot anyone who stopped or fell down. Heartbreaking.

Could I survive something like that? I wondered.

These men write about how they had a strong will to survive. They made up their minds early on that they would survive. They had the will to live.

After the march, they were imprisoned and beaten. Then they were shipped (literally) to Japan on a "death ship". If they survived the horrific conditions on the ship, then they were sent to a POW camp where they were forced to work in a coal mine....for 3 years.

I made my way to my Jeep and sat there for a while. As I drove home, I thought about these fine men and all they went through. One guy went through it all dreaming of when he would return to his wife. Unfortunately, after he returned home he was told she had remarried. Imagine that!! So sad.

So, my hike that night was a time of deep reflection and thanksgiving. I am thankful to God for His mercy. I am thankful to all the soldiers who experienced World War II and served so bravely. And I am thankful for all who served our country in all its wars and at peacetime (my dad and uncle, my bro-in-law, my brother, husband).

I am especially thankful for our soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan at this moment. For what they are going through, and for what they will go through...but mostly for what they have done, I am truly thankful.

Like World War II or the defeat of the Cold War.....we may not see all the positive results of a free Iraq for many years now. But the point is, we will see the results.

As I made my way into our apartment and heard the blessed voice of my young son welcoming me home, I walked over to my husband and hugged him. I whispered, "thank you" to him and told him how proud of him I was. He looked at me strangely, but knew what I was talking about. Then he asked what was for dinner. (Typical Marine)

THANK YOU to all who are serving. From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

Psalm 27:11-14
" Teach me thy way, O LORD; and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the LORD!"


Blogger this we'll defend said...

Outstanding post. I am so happy you are posting.

I accidentally deleted your comment on my site about CBFTW's report today. Yes I read it. Man I hope that kid is ok and makes it home. But I am so proud of my Army, as I always have been. That story of the guy trying to find a ride to go back out because his was all shot up? I've seen stuff like that (although I can't say I am a combat vet after reading today's post) and it always floored me.

A democracy can produce better soldiers than any other form of government because they don't need to be told what to do. They figure it out on their own. That is why when civilians tell me "I couldn't join the military because I wouldn't want somebody telling me what to do all the time" I want to strangle them. CB's post today showed why that myth isn't true. Notice that nobody was in the middle of a firefight ordering soldiers about. They were working and thinking as a team, communicating with each other. I am filled with fear and pride today, all at the same time.

August 5, 2004 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger artbyruth said...

Well, you have to admit, though, most people don't like to be told what to wear, how to wear it, if they can get married, where to live, and whether they can or cannot go on vacation!

Other than that....the military is "ok"!

August 5, 2004 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger this we'll defend said...

in all honesty, no married man leaves the military so he can choose what to wear. It makes no difference...

August 5, 2004 at 10:24 PM  

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