Saturday, 30 July 2011

67th Liberation Day

On December 10, 1941, Guam surrendered to the Japanese South Seas detachment forces after a valiant defensive struggle by the island's Insular Force Guard and a limited number of U.S. marines. Guam became the only populated U.S. soil to be occupied by another country in World War II. Guam was renamed "Omiya Jima" and for 31 months, her people of were forcibly subjected to intolerable hardships administered by the Japanese military. Although some measure of religious practice and business activities were permitted, atrocities, grenade slaughters and rapes were common. Concentration camps were established by the 29th Division of Japan's Kwantung Army and approximately 600 Chamorro's were executed. Some Chamorro's were beheaded when the Japanese learned of the 3-year humanitarian effort to successfully feed and hide U.S. Navy radioman George Tweed who escaped in the initial invasion. 

On the morning of July 21, 1944, after one of the longest and heaviest pre-assault naval bombardments of the war, the American recapture of Guam began, with simultaneous landings at Asan and Agat. About 55,000 men of the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade and 305th Regimental Combat Team of the 77th Army Infantry Division, storm the beaches. By day's end, both beaches are secured.In the three weeks that followed, Americans cleared Orote Peninsula and secured Fonte Plateau. They then move north toward Hagania, Barrigada, Mount Santa Rosa and on to Ritidian Point, at which point the island is declared secure. 

The island made of flowers.
Liberation day is a holiday unique to Guam. It is the most celebrated day of the year and is framed by a series of fiestas, carnivals, memorials and tributes to honor those who gave their all during the Japanese occupation. To culminate the month long celebration, the annual parade closes down Marine Drive and invites families to camp out in attempt to secure the best seat. Chamorro families often set up tents, haul coolers and bbqs, cook food and celebrate, often for days after the parade, in recognition of Guam's liberation during World War II. 

Guam's Rockettes
With the days leading up to the parade we heard over and over, "you have to go once". So we did. With the parade as an "alternative duty location" for Ryan, we packed our backpack with sunscreen, water, snacks, and a towel to sit on and ventured down to the parade route. Arriving at 8:00 we tracked down our friend Ann Marie, staked out our spots and settled in for a day at the parade. Directly across the street was the grand stand. I was thrilled, thinking "if this is anything like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, we have perfect seats. The rockettes will perform right there, the music acts are with in arms reach. Where else would we want to sit?" Okay, it wasn't the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, but we were entertained. 

About an hour and half after our arrival the parade kicked off with a brigade of motorcycles. The roar was deafening. Quickly there after was a fly over by a B-52 and 2 helicopters. 19 classic cars followed delivering the 19 grand marshalls, all of whom were survivors of WWII. Troops from the Guam National Guard, Navy fleets, Guam Air Guard, Air Force, and Army marched. The Marine Corps Band played the Guam Hymn and National Anthem. Floats representing everything Miss Guam to the Corrections Department followed. Ann Marie's husband, Nate, was on the REDHORSE float so our plan was to wait for his arrival before leaving. We waited and waited, at 12:40 the REDHORSE crew finally made it. 

You do the math, that was 4 hours and 40 minutes that we 'watched' the parade. One might think, "You're only sitting there" but that was not the case. About 5 minutes into the parade, Ann Marie and I realized we are going to be running from our curb to the median over and over to get the best pictures. (We were sitting on the south bound curb, the parade was in the north bound lanes.) To solve the problem, we moved. Ann Marie, Ryan and myself hunkered down on the grassy median along with the half dozen other media personnel. With our perfect vantage point, the parade passed just inches from our feet. 

With every brilliant idea there was a down fall, we were in the middle of the road, with ABSOLUTELY NO cover from the inevitable Guam rain. We are laughing, waving at the parade participants and enjoying the candy that was tossed out when Ryan looks north up the road and barely has time to say, "we are about to get wet" before the sky opens up. The three of us grab our stuff, run back to our original side of the road and find an over hang to stand under. 

If you ever visit Guam, the first thing you notice is the rain comes and goes quicker than you thought possible. With the sun back out we reclaim our spot and continue the celebration. Not 20 minutes later the next rain cloud ventures towards us. We decide to stay in our spot and wait it out. Great idea, we thought. As we are dripping wet, and the 10 minute rain is not even starting to let up, the media people begin to laugh. As we look around we realize we are the only ones with out an umbrella. One photographer walked towards us and while chuckling he asked 'is this your first liberation day?" "Yes" we responded. He smiled and simply advised us, "bring an umbrella next year, it always rains". Awesome. We're the new kids on the block.... you live and learn. Before we dried from the rain, a seemingly random chamorro

I'll post a few picture and the best explanation I can just to give you a taste of the celebration and gratitude the chamorro people still have for the sacrifice of the men who delivered their land from Japanese occupation. 
need we say more?

transformer car (maybe)

They were really cooking the pig.

Random Bag Piper

The crowds cheer as every formation of service personnel passed.
The pride is something I have never seen in the States. 

The Chammoros are very proud of their land of the US Troops.

For all our Asheville friends we hope you enjoyed Bele Cher weekend. Have a great rest of your summer. See you next time from our rock in the middle of the Pacific.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

celebrating summer where it's always 'summer'

Summers have always been full of grandiose adventures. Family vacations, adventurous weeks at camp, hiking with friends, mission trips that span the seven seas, endless hours spent at the pool, night after night of ice cream cones and more festivals than anyone could possibly enjoy. Well, this summer is no different.

Okay. It's a little different. Our 'family vaccation' will be in September when we celebrate Grant and Patricia's wedding. Our hiking no longer include gazing from the top of mountains, instead they offer breath taking views of the massiveness of the Pacific Ocean. Our mission trip is a 10 minute drive to base each Thursday night to love on our youth group. We have yet to venture to the pool, instead we enjoy our time at the beach. Ice cream cones have been replaced by "shaved ice surprise" at Mt. Lam Lam. (Basically like the Hawaiian shaved ice you get at Myrtle Beach, but in the middle is a 'surprise' of soft served vanilla ice cream. Heaven on earth on a hot summer day.) We set out on search each weekend for a different festival, complete with all the great classic food. All the while, poor Ryan is still listening to me complain about how this is only the third summer since I was in second grade that I am not at camp.

We have taken full advantage of exploring our island. There are no long road trips. No honking the horn when you cross the state line. No rest areas or freeways. Just us. We set out, supplied with a full tank of gas, a semi-descent map, and an idea of our destination. Armed with a camera we laugh about how our friends and families would react to the sights we see, people we meet, and adventures we have.

One might think that after a while the beach is no longer relaxing. It's no longer peaceful. The nostalgia must be gone. That is not the case for us. Nothing will ever replace the enjoyment of an afternoon nap at the beach. If you ever decide to drop by and we aren't home. Head to the closest beach. You'll find us there.

Two of our new friends, Nate and Ann Marie, took us to the Navy Base to hike out to the Spanish Steps and spend a few hours snorkeling. It was the most peacefully place I have seen on the island. Besides the 4 of us there were only 2 other people there. The cove was flanked by towering cliffs. The coral came in every shape and color, fish were everywhere. Yes, that is an actual starfish in the picture above.

The hike down only took a few minutes but felt like we were in the film "Honey I Shrunk the Kids". The jungle soared above us. The fallen palm branches felt monstrous. The baby coconut trees seemed like gargantuous blades of grass. Even the wild life seemed abnormally huge!

The Spanish Steps were constructed to gain access to a fresh water drinking well. After surpassing the well and concluding it is simply a pile of crumbling rock, the jungle opens up to a beautiful scene of cliffs. The channel leads out to the ocean and shipping lanes.

felt like I was in Indiana Jones

To celebrate 4th of July we headed to Navy for Freedom Fest. It offered the food every good festival has. Hamburgers, Hot Dog, Cotton Candy, Sno Cones, Popcorn. Different military vehicles from the past were on display.

Bounce houses galore for children and adults alike. There was a live band and prizes to be won. Unfortunately, we did not win the 'grand prize' of 2 round trip tickets to anywhere in Asia. How fun would that have been? But we enjoyed all the festival had to offer with the company of several friends.
This is our dear friend Deb. 

I think they were both a bit excited about their cotton candy! It took about 30 minutes of standing in line, but seemed to be worth the wait.

50 cal machine gun mounted on a helicopter

July 9 was military appreciation day here on Guam. To honor those who served the military sets up displays at Asan Beach and invites the public to come and learn about the different jobs and equipment.

Sniper riffle (like the one the Canadian used to make the longest shot in Afghanistan)

Since Ryan volunteered to man the REDHORSE area, I ventured down to see what I could learn. Not so sure I learned much, but I can promise I fit in with all the other kids climbing on the equipment, examining the guns, and taking in sights.

When people ask Ryan, "what do you fly?" He always laughs and responds, "I drive big trucks." He's not kidding. He drives really big trucks.

For those who are concerned, Ryan never left me unattended. I said, "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing. My dad let me drive the tractor when I was 5." He didn't really seem to care.

We were fed lunch by locals. Traditional rice, noodles, bbq chicken, fried chicken and egg roles. DELICIOUS! but a bit spicy.

To top off a lovely Saturday we headed down to the beach club on base, Bamboo Willies, for a concert by 12 Stones. They are out of New Orleans and have toyed in the Christian Rock scene a bit. It was a wonderful way to spend an evening relaxing, people watching, and enjoying some live music.

Until next time, enjoy your vacation, go on a hike, find your mission field, indulge in an ice cream cone and explore a new festival. 

~From our rock in the middle of the Pacific.