The 4th of July is here and while many are drawn appropriately to the revolutionary founders of this great country and the historic beginnings of what will become the United States of America, my own thoughts are drawn to my birthplace, the island of Guam.
Guam is a part of the United States. It is a territory. All persons born on Guam are U.S. Citizens. I grew up saying the Pledge of Allegiance and singing the Star Spangle Banner at school every morning.
July is a big patriotic month in Guam. Partly because of Independence Day, July 4th. We celebrate with barbecues, fire crackers and red, white and blue very similar to the states.
July was also the month back in 1944 when Guam was liberated from the invading Japanese forces. It was recaptured on July 21st that year. I write “recaptured” because it was part of the U.S. when the Japanese attacked and overtook the island. The residents of the island were all U.S. naturals. They were held hostage by an invading army for nearly four years.
The U.S. military fought a bitter battle for Guam. Many lives were lost, both military and civilian. Both my parents lost siblings. Guam is filled with memorials to the brave dead. I see them clearly from my childhood memories. I still remember the sacred reverence my people felt around such sites. Those feelings have been passed down to me.
Since Liberation Day from the Japanese, the percentage of individuals per capita from Guam that have served in the armed forces of the United States is one of the highest in the nation. As a percentage of the population Guam has also sacrificed a considerable number of its finest to the cause of freedom for our country.
It is particularly poignant for me to know that in a little man made peninsula that juts out from the capital city of Hatgatna in Guam, there is an eight foot Replica of the Statue of Liberty that stands on a concrete block overlooking the Pacific ocean.
The present statue ( made of white jade) actually replaced the original one which was installed in 1950 at the 40 year anniversary of the Boy Scouts. That was also the same year that the Organic Act of Guam was signed granting all Guam residents United States Citizenship. The new statue weighs over 1200 lbs. and comes from China.
Like the original that graces Ellis island in the Atlantic, the smaller version stands on land touted as the place “Where America’s Day Begins” because of Guam’s geographical position as the first U.S. soil to receive the new day’s sunlight on the other side of the international date line.
So on this 4th of July, the story of sacrifice for freedoms fought has continued through varied places from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The story of America continues to unfold and its spirit continues to move even into the isles of the sea. Lady Liberty continues to raise her freedom torch . Happy Independence Day!