The day after we moved into my Long Beach neighborhood in 2001, an elderly man hobbled across the street to help my very pregnant wife wheel the trash bins out to curbside. “The old man” living across the street was a World War II combat veteran. When I learned he had fought against the Japanese in the SW Pacific, I feared the worst because of our Japanese ancestry.
Twelve years later, I was honored to have been asked to be a pallbearer at his funeral…to carry him on his last journey on this Earth. I was ashamed to have even thought he would show hatred towards me twelve years earlier after having fought for our country.
His handshake was always firm and warm and he loved me as his own son. He taught me forgiveness as even he had learned to forgive in spite of having given his all on “those stinking islands”, referring to Guadalcanal, Rabaul and Okinawa.
Now he is gone. But then and now, I and my two young kids – whom he treated so lovingly – thank him for all we have today. I prized his friendship, wisdom and most of all, his sacrifices for his country so long ago – so much so that I named the child my wife was carrying that day twelve years ago after him. It was an honor to name my son Jack.
None of what we have today would be possible if not for not for the unselfish sacrifices of our men and women in uniform…such as you. Because of our armed forces, we have food on our tables, freedom and are free of tyranny in our daily lives. While not perfect, we live in the greatest country in the world because of you. Let no one tell you any different.
We welcome you back home and thank you.