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Four years ago, as a guest on a syndicated radio program, I read a letter from Betty Sanderman in Sonora, California. Her letter was published in "Reminisce" magazine. I think her words are worth repeating. They are as follows:
In February 1945, my parents, my brother and I had been held captive in the Santo Tomas internment camp near Manila, in the Philippines, for three years, since the Japanese took over the island. I was seven years old, and I told my mother about seeing the shadow of a huge bird going across the hot, baked grounds of the camp the previous week.
My mother told me not to say anything about what I had seen. It was not the shadow of a bird, but that of a low flying American airplane.
For some time, the Filipino people outside our fence had been singing "God Bless America" as their way of letting us know that American troops were coming soon to liberate us. It was not long before, on a hot tropical night, the tanks of the 1st Cavalry Division and a "flying column" of American soldiers, crashed through the gates of the internment camp, overpowered the guards and liberated us.
For the first time, we could leave our room that night. The next morning, the big, strong American soldiers shared their rations with internees, many of whom were near death from starvation.
There had been a lot of bombing around Manila the nights before our liberation. I remember my father telling us, "Look, there where the sky is red. That's a rocket and there are bombs."
"The rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air", somebody said. People had tears in their eyes. I didn't understand the words then, as patriotic songs were forbidden in the camp. And I was just seven years old.
When all of us arrived back in America, I was able to go to school, learning to read and write and sing. I loved to sing, and "God Bless America" is my favorite song.
I'm seventy-one years old now, and every time I hear that song, I still get goose bumps.
Memorial Day weekend is coming up soon. We always look forward to it. It reminds us of cook-outs, barbecue and an extra day off. And, let's not forget the annual Macy's Memorial Weekend Mattress Sale - it's become a tradition.
Thankfully, Memorial Day means so much more.
Until next time,
God bless everybody and God bless America!