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Thoughts on Memorial Day

“Remember and reflect.”

The Pastor’s opening words at the start of Sunday service grabbed our attention.

Every last Monday of May, we observe Memorial Day here in the US. On this day, the Philippines and the United States stand together in memorializing the Filipinos and Americans who lost their lives during the Second World War.

“Remember and reflect on the supreme sacrifice by those who fought for the cause of freedom,” the Pastor continued.

Although there is no Philippine equivalent to Memorial Day, Filipino and American veterans observe it at the Manila American Cemetery, the final resting place of thousands of World War II service members including those missing in action.

Happily, as of this writing, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office are working to make the week of September 2 as “Victory Week” to honor and commemorate Philippine military personnel who gave their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The last world war ended eight decades ago. But as we commemorate Memorial Day here, my mind travels back to the days of my youth when I walked with some of these heroes, the ageing officers and members of the Philippine-American Veterans Organizations in New Jersey, New York and other nearby states.

I remember every Memorial Day my father would invite us for a flag raising ceremony at the Jersey City Hall where the flags of the US and the Philippines were raised.

They are all gone now.

Today, as I reflect on the destruction that the last world war did to us, I know of some people who continue to bear grudges against the enemy who have caused so much grief to their parents and ancestors. The wounds of war do not heal, despite the decades.

Indeed, two great wars have come and gone and mankind has not learned the lessons, except to get ready and be prepared for another war.

In the words of Hegel:

“History teaches us that man learns nothing from history.”

Consider this: The war in Ukraine could spark another world war. So is America’s precarious state of affairs with China, North Korea, Iran, and other states hanging on the precipice of conflict. Furthermore, Israel is still under threat of nuclear annihilation by Iran and other Arab nations. In my generation during the Cold War Years, the question was “will I be blown up?” Today the question is not will I be blown up but when will World War III happen.

I am reminded of a program for veterans by the Philippine Department of Tourism initiated by the Philippine government in the seventies. It was called Reunion for Peace. It was an invitation to all World War II veterans from Japan, Korea, US and other countries to come to the Philippines for a reunion – this time to come in peace and visit their former battlefields as friends. It was also an occasion for some former Japanese veterans who fought in the Philippines to pay homage to places where their former comrades lost their lives in battle.

I remember my late father being sent to Japan by the Philippine government to invite former Japanese soldiers to come to the Philippines for this program for peace. I shall never forget that moment. It was the best lesson I learned in life. He found forgiveness and peace in his heart despite what the Japanese did to his family. He treated former enemies as if they were long lost siblings.

I shudder to imagine that if another world war should break out, there may not be another reunion for peace with former adversaries. At the rate we are going now, mankind may be completely annihilated. Unless we learn the lessons of history.

It is not too late.

I take comfort in the thought that after all, on this Memorial Day, all these veterans are now in heaven, friends and foes alike, validating what was written in Isaiah 11:6:

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb…


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