It will forever seem like a cruel twist of fate: That my Uncle Pete missed the arrival of the American forces in Manila by just some 50 days. When the Bilibid prison camp, where he had been interned for nearly 3 years, was liberated in those first few days of February 1945, my uncle was already gone. He, along with over 16oo other men, had departed on the ill fated voyage to Japan, shipped out December 13, 1944.
50 days. A length of time that might very well have made the difference between my uncle becoming a veteran of World War II, instead of the casualty that he was.
I’ve read about the guilt that returning veterans, of any war, often feel over the fact that they were lucky to survive and return home, when many of their buddies did not. They wonder, Why was I the lucky one? And, Why was the other guy asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, and not me? In reading the memoirs of men who knew my Uncle Pete, they asked themselves those same questions.
But sacrifice comes in many forms. I know that every man and woman who has served our country has paid some part of the price that has bought the freedoms we enjoy today. Our veterans need to know that just as they will never forget that they were the “lucky ones”, we will never forget what they have done for us.
To all of our veterans on this day, and forever-