The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Guam from Japanese occupation has come and gone. The celebrations, the memorials, and the parade are over. Next year, fewer living war survivors will remain to tell their stories. Soon, we will have to rely on videos and written accounts to honor their strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable circumstances.
Some years ago, when I attended the annual Manenggon memorial, I spoke with a war survivor who told me that his three-year-old sister had died along the way during the original march to Manenggon. He relayed how his distraught mother had begged her brother and father to mark her baby’s grave well so that they could find her after the war. They never did.
I thought about that story on July 7th, as I joined several hundred people who retraced the infamous steps forced on thousands of CHamorus by Japanese solders 75 years ago. One of this year’s participants was Tun Juan Guzman, who today is 85 years old, but who was a boy of 10 during that first march. The first three years of the Manenggon Memorial, he walked here from Agat. Every year since then, he has walked from Ylig Bridge, carrying the Manenggon Foundation flag along the way. Originally from the village of Sumay, Mr. Guzman says he will keep honoring his fellow survivors “while I’m still alive.”