At hearing on Guam World War II claims resolution, elders watch as others advocate for them
The resolution under consideration for a vote later in March expresses "the Guam Legislature's unwavering support for the payment of war claims to our man'amko and the support of Congressman Michael San Nicolas's H.R. 1141 as well as well as Governor Lou Leon Guerrero in finding an Administrative solution to authorizing the U.S. Department of the Treasury to begin issuing war claim payments."
Sen. Amanda L. Shelton with Jesusa Arceo. Photos by Bruce Lloyd
There were a handful of man'amko in the legislature's public hearing room Wednesday, but they've been telling their stories and making claims for the brutality they suffering since 1946. These people have vivid memories of being by Japanese soldiers with sticks as they were marched from their family ranches and homes to the Mangengon concentration camp.
It was clear that they've lost patience with being forced to plead for compensation and hope that, somehow, something long overdue, will get done.
Joe Garrido was one of two to testify before Sen. Amanda L. Shelton's committee. He was a toddler at the time of the occupation, but he has memories of the end of it with the American invasion and the immediate post-war times on Guam. He shed some tears while recalling this.
"Every time I talk about this, I remember the hardship. I remember my young sister. We built a casket for her. I'm just glad she didn't die. But it is those stories that really hurts. Maybe by crying a little this morning, the people I represent in speaking today . At least they have someone to speak for them."
Garrido said he wasn't "completely satisfied" with the settlement reached, or with payment out of Section 30 funds due to Guam--in effect paying for war compensation out of its own funds, but he believes it's the best that can be done, given the huge loss to date of those who suffered during the war to date and the imminent demise of the rest. His entire family, for example, had died before the settlement was released.
Vicky Gayer, a Guam resident for decades, was not born until 1951, when the United States, by treaty, absolved Japan from further war compensation due to Guam for actions during its occupation of the island. Her father fought and war injured on Guam and other Pacific points during the war. He told her about the end of the war on Guam.
"It was a dangerous time. The people, the survivors who parents who have passed already suffered because of the post-traumatic stress their parents went through. And I know this to be true. When I came 46 years ago, they were traumatized people. I was born in 1951, but I know that the kids that were born suffered. They didn't survive, because they starved. And the ones that did survive suffered, because their parents, their mothers that were raped. These children, many of them children of soldiers, they had to do what they had to do to survive. Those people deserve some of this money."
Sen. Shelton said a vote on her resolution would be expected later this month.