Learning To Love You More




Assignment #59
Interview someone who has experienced war.

L. Mendoza
San Francisco, California USA



At a recent family BBQ attended by our nephew just back from Iraqi, the subject of war came up with my Father. My dad overheard me talking with my brother's wife about a movie "Flags of our fathers" and I mentioned how one scene in particular was very similar to an experience my Father had in Okinawa.
Me: Can you tell us about it? That scene in Flags of our Fathers was so similar to the one you described that one time.
Dad: Yes, we were on the beach. For days. With no sleep. Very little food. We were so tired. Suddenly we were ordered to return to the ship.
Me: In Okinawa?
Dad: Yes. We had on all our gear and backpacks which were very heavy. And, all sleep deprived, cold and tired. And, we were coming up along side the ships. They loaded you but this was done as they were speeding along. They didn't stop. If you were able, you could grab onto the rope ladder and climb aboard. Otherwise, they had a device that hoisted the smaller boats, connecting them two places and they raised them up. Sometimes the smaller boats would lose one of the connections and some of the crew would fall out. When it came time to hoist my boat, we must have looked so bad that we were instructed to stay put and they would hoist us out.
But because I had seen what happens if they miss, well, I just didn't want to fall out of the boat. I just had the feeling I "had to climb the rope ladder" and decided to disobey the order to "stay put". I grabbed onto the rope and started to climb it. All I remember was being so tired and almost falling many, many times. It was the hardest thing in the world and I'll never forget it. When I got to the top of the boat, I was grabbed and flung onto the deck. I then looked over as my boat raced to meet the hoist. It was grabbed by one end and then the other. The hoist began, but then suddenly one end came loose and the remaining crew were flung about... some falling.
Sister in Law: Oh, and they went back to get them right?
Me: No, I whimpered. They didn't.
Dad: No. [choking back tears] No. I remember the ship crew dropping a long rod in order for crew to hang onto to. And it kept poking and poking this guy. [choking back tears]. He fell silent.
Me: [Thinking to myself] As my dad sat there "in that moment" with the blood draining from his face, wracked by unspeakable grief and no longer able to speak. Like in the movie, the ships speeds on, and crew are left to drown and never picked up. My father's instinct to disobey and instead climb up the ladder saved his life. And to think, in the that one instance, I may never have been, along with my 9 other siblings. In that one moment, everything changed. He was 25.
I wonder who his lost crew mates were. They must have grown close on those maneuvers and spent many hours entertaining and speaking of their hopes, fears and families. And to see one or more of them looking back with such fear, knowing you could do nothing for them haunts my Father to this day.