Friday, December 30, 2011

My Grandfather's Papers: Prelude to 2012

My grandmother, me, and my grandfather

A great man died in the family and I am not related to him by blood, but by marriage.  There was a horse and carriage, a band with the bugle boy playing the themed song Taps, and a flyover of jets with one less pilot in the formation that peeled off in the last second over the grave site.  One hundred or so men and women lined the streets of Arlington Cemetery in full military dress and waited quietly until the end of the ceremony to parade the conclusion of the event.  They were so quiet, we did not even know they were there.  This event was truly moving.

Before flying back home, I was introduced last minute to an influential Filipino Major General, who signs his name as T2 if you get to know him.  Although the meeting was at an airport Starbuck’s, the move was strategic.  I introduced myself by breaking the ice by telling him of the purpose of my visit to Washington D.C.  I painted a picture of glory of the funeral I had attended.  He respectfully acknowledged my awe and quickly brought me back to the reality about our own ancestors.  "Filipino veterans, who served in WWII and survived the famed “Death March” were lucky to get a tape recorder of a bugle playing," he said.  He shared with me the story of his brother, who survived, but suffered his whole life of complications.  We instantly became kindred spirits.

Only one-month prior had my own father presented me with my grandfather’s papers.  A story unfolded before my eyes.  The papers dated back to the early 1940’s during World War II.   As I align my grandfather’s papers against the timeline of history, I began to realize how so many soldiers, including my grandfather, fell through the cracks of history and several systems and governments.

My previous series of blogs, which will soon be published in a book compilation, was dedicated to my Grandmother.  This series I dedicate to my Grandfather.  I organized my grandmother’s stories by intertwining them in family recipes presented at last year’s Merienda.  This coming year I will unfold a story as it happens and will use my grandfather’s papers as a touch point for the readers to relate back to the reality of events that unfolded and the current events I am about to unfold by pursuing my own mission:  acquire the Prisoner of War medal and Bronze Star for my grandfather.

So I begin Chapter 1 with the Simple Life.  This is the life of my grandfather before document one appeared.  This chapter will be the most speculative since my only evidence of what happened prior to Document One is based on family stories and the historical timeline of what was happening with regard to current events at that time in the rustic town of Agoo, La Union, Philippines. 

Document One is dated August 3, 1941, Sunday.  Francisco Panis receives orders as 3LT, 23rd infantry regiment to Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija.  The document is titled “Special Orders No. 176 from the Commonwealth of the Philippines Army Headquarters”.

It is not the medal itself that is the reason I pursue this, it is to build a case for all Filipino soldiers who served in WWII for the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.  I write this for my family and many families that need closure for their loved ones.   I make a statement to properly acknowledge these forgotten soldiers.  When I myself leave this world, I want everyone to know that in American or Filipino history their stories are held in a place of significance and honor.

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