Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

It's that time of year again . . . time to whine about the cold and snow in Chicago while training for the Bataan Memorial Death March, which takes place in March . . . in the desert. Last year was so cold (I would not have been an effective soldier during the Battle of the Bulge), that I managed only to do my long weekend training walks, not the shorter weekday ones - the ones that build momentum and body readiness. The prior year, I talked a lot about feeling disingenuous complaining about the ice and snow and looking for open bathrooms and water, while thinking about the men I hoped to honor during the Memorial marathon. Those Bataan marchers walked without food and water in the hottest part of the year in the Philippines. They didn't get to stop for bathroom breaks, nor did they get Starbucks as a reward for walking a mere 20 miles or so; they walked 80.

During this, my third year of training, I feel more philosophical about my physical discomfort - not beating myself up because I have warm clothing and resources my grandfather and his colleagues lacked. I'm using the solitude of my walks, short and long, to meditate on what my role is in life - certainly not that of a battle-weary soldier - but of a person who I hope has something to give, just by my example.

And yes, that's me in the purple windpants, orange jacket, and pink down vest - because it's wicked cold out there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Never Walked Alone

At Mile 15 in last year's Bataan Memorial Death March, you came to walk beside me. I could see faint images of you on either side of me. The only sound, however, was that of my feet on the dusty rocky trail at White Sands Missile Range.

You only stayed a moment, but after you left, the bending bowing cactus and pinon accompanied me. They lined the road much as the Filipino women and children must have done over 70 years ago - trying to provide food and water.

I wanted pictures of you to take as a blessed remembrance, but (ironically) for me, had no camera.

This year, once again, as the soldiers left me, you appeared and I was able to capture your presence. Thank you for being there.

Monday, January 27, 2014

You Can't Stop Me Now

I'm trying, lord I'm trying . . . but Chicago's winter has wreaked havoc HAVOC I tell you, on my training schedule for this year's Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in March.

This weekend was supposed to be an 18-mile training walk - hah! I'm so far behind that all I could manage was a somewhat sprightly (and it got less sprightly) 14-miler. Thankfully, there was mud, snow, and yuk to tramp through giving me the feeling that I was sort of training for the desert sand. Also thankfully, the Lakefront was clear of ice - that does not help in training at all.

I am grateful that this year, I'm not quite as fearful as I was last year when I had absolutely no experience with either the marathon-distance march or the desert. I feel like I may be on a roll and the days inch towards warmer weather, so hopefully all is not lost.

Monday, October 7, 2013

It's a Small World, After All

Oh man, I knew it had been awhile since I posted . . . but snow? Sheesh; here it is October, and that scene is not too far off. It's also annoying as hell when people state the obvious, "It's been a long time since I blogged," so I won't.

Suffice to say, it's been a crazy busy wonderful adventure-filled year - and it's not over yet!

I did that walk mentioned in the prior post. My snow/sand training proved invaluable in the desert of White Sands, NM. I'm not going to say it was easy; it's never easy walking 26.2 miles, but I did it with a smile on my face (mostly because of the iced coffee I carried along with my water). How can anyone be outside (or inside for that matter) for 8 hours without coffee?

I started the march with a survivor, Ben Skardon, and Ben's Brigade, a group that walks with Ben as far as he can go. At 95, he made 8 miles. He remembers my grandfather and his shows in Cabanatuan. Every bit of new information I get brings Zero more alive for me. And, makes his story more amazing.

As I walked, mostly in solitude, I thought about the soldiers who were forced to do the Death March. I listened to feet shuffling over gravel and sand and the murmur of other marchers. I don't know if my grandfather and Ben were allowed to talk . . . I should ask.

A number of the soldiers making the trek were packing 40+ pound rucks, some were running the entire marathon, others walking. Still others, very young, and clearly unaware of the "wear your shoes at least 100 miles before attempting a marathon," had fallen by the wayside, leaving bloody socks and band-aids. It occurred to me, that had this been the "real" march, they would have been bayoneted or beheaded.

At one point, deep into the march and the desert - maybe mile 18 - I saw the huge bent plants; they looked like women reaching out to help the soldiers. And that's when I felt it. I felt the men, ghosts all of them, walking next to me, in front of me, and beside me.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Walking the Walk

So what got me to a 20-mile walk through snow and sand on the Chicago lakefront? Clearly it wasn't the weather (see "snow" above). It wasn't the company; I was walking alone. Not too many folks were duplicating my 17 degree journey.

Just why the hell was I freezing my ass off and rubbing blisters?

This is where the phrase, "It's a long story" always comes up. And in my case it's true. This story started 71 years ago on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines. Thousands of prisoners, many of the U.S. soldiers, of the Japanese were about to embark on one of the most heinous events in WWII - The Bataan Death March. And this has to do with me in 2013 on a frigid Chicago day?

My grandfather was one of the U.S. soldiers; he had no idea he was about to be forced to walk almost 80 miles.

The War Goes On

The title of this post is more metaphorical than real to my life. Although there do seem to be conflicts on a daily basis that permeate our country. Most don't involve guns or drones, but words, which unfortunately can be more harmful.

I've recently engaged in an activity that indirectly parallels my project with my grandfather's tenure in the Philippines. During my research I stumbled on a site where the editor asked for volunteers to transcribe affidavits presented against Japanese war crimes. I contacted the editor, not even knowing if it was still an active site; it is. He has sent me three different sets of legal proceedings to transcribe from aging copies to computer.

What I am finding are missing pieces to my grandfather's war experience. I have an affidavit from him describing went happened during his internment; however, this new information is specific to incidents and therefore some how more immediate.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

"I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari"
Lowell George

I didn't actually go from Tucson to Tucumcari; however, I did go from Borger, Texas THRU Tucumcari, New Mexico on my way to Albuquerque along portions of old Route 66.

My trip was for the purpose of sharing the middle-school primer I had written about my Grandfather, Zero Wilson, and the Mighty Cabanatuan Orchestra and Art Players. I had received a grant from the Descendants of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor and part of the requirement was to present what had been funded with former POWs from the Bataan Death March and their assorted relatives and friends.
I'm not sure what I expected, but not on my list was to find another family be a part of. And find a family I did. There truly are only seven people in the world; not only did I meet other military kids (although, we can no longer officially be called "kids"), but I met people I had read about and people who knew about Zero. We spoke a common language and had a common background. Difficult to find I think, even with one's own family. It was emotional and exciting.
My presentation was well-received. My workbook required some edits based on audience feedback. My primer found a couple of new homes by way of educators I met.

No one found the typo on the title of the workbook until two weeks later when a 6th grader busted me. But that's a story for another day.