About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1172 |
6 min read
Published: Jun 9, 2021
Words: 1172|Pages: 2|6 min read
Inspiration is a profound sentiment, seldom ignited by ordinary individuals. It requires someone truly extraordinary to spark that inner fire. In my life, that exceptional figure is my grandfather. As I recount his story, you'll come to understand why his life journey has been a wellspring of inspiration for me. It's a story that culminates in a significant honor, the dedication of a memorial highway in his name in Kentucky, the very state where his remarkable life began. To truly appreciate why I admire my graddfather, this essay delves into the intricate tapestry of his existence.
This photograph of my grandfather, captured in his youth, conceals the extraordinary trials he would soon face. On this particular day, he transitioned from an individual to a mere statistic, becoming Prisoner of War number 540 in Japan. To comprehend the essence of his inspiration, one must first grasp the defining moments that shaped his character.
My grandfather's journey began in 1920, as the eighth of ten children, born to a schoolteacher and a farmer. At the tender age of seventeen, he made a life-altering decision to join the Navy. The allure of adventure and the opportunity to serve his country swayed his youthful heart. Little did he know that this decision would set the stage for a lifetime of profound experiences. In the Navy, he became a submariner. However, on April 22, 1943, his submarine faced a catastrophic event. Severely damaged, it descended to the ocean floor, 200 feet beneath the surface in the Straits of Malacca off the coast of Malaysia. The situation seemed hopeless, but through sheer ingenuity, the crew managed to resurface. Still immobile, they watched as Japanese ships drew closer, their capture imminent. At the last possible moment, their captain scuttled the sub. This marked the beginning of an ordeal that would last for years.
The first harrowing chapter in my grandfather's wartime experience began with their transportation to Penang, Malaysia. For three agonizing days, the crew was forced to stand on the ship's deck, threatened with death if they dared to sit or lie down. This was the first of many traumas that would shape my grandfather's life. The crew was eventually interned in the Convent Light Street School, a building that had been closed during the war but would later bear witness to their suffering. They endured two months of brutal torture, their survival uncertain. Yet, amidst despair, they yearned to leave a trace of their existence. Using a belt buckle, they etched their names into a classroom wall. These carved names, preserved behind glass, stand as a testament to their resilience and continue to be displayed in the classroom, a tangible reminder of their presence.
My grandfather's journey then led him to Japan, where he was interned in prison camps. Assigned to the Fukuoka Internment #3 Camp in Kokura, he endured unimaginable horrors. Starvation, beatings, sickness, and death were constant companions. His resilience sustained him as he toiled in the nearby ironworks. However, this period left an indelible mark on his psyche, plunging him into a lifetime of nightmares. The most haunting of these memories involved awakening amidst a pile of lifeless bodies in a shed. Plagued by illness, he had been placed in the camp's clinic, surrounded by fellow prisoners who did not survive. The 24-year-old's experience of regaining consciousness, encircled by the deceased, remains a haunting testament to the horrors of war.
As a poignant sidebar, it's worth noting that Kokura, the city of my grandfather's internment, was originally the primary target for the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Fortunately, overcast skies on that fateful day diverted the plane to Nagasaki, altering the course of history. When the war finally ended, my grandfather and his fellow prisoners awoke to an open gate and their captors gone. They were free.
Returning home to his first wife, my grandfather's life unfolded, marked by both personal triumphs and internal struggles. He remarried, raised his children, and pursued his daily responsibilities. Despite his brilliance, his wartime demons were never far from his thoughts. It took years before he could share the depth of his trauma, confiding in my grandmother, who witnessed his nighttime battles with his memories. Nevertheless, he persevered, passing on his love for learning and the habit of devouring knowledge. His life lessons were profound, instilling in his children an ethos of open-mindedness and an absence of fear in the face of the unknown.
At the age of 59, a significant turning point in my grandfather's life occurred. My grandmother, freshly armed with a master's degree from Harvard, encouraged him to apply to the undergraduate program, despite lacking a high school diploma. His interview with the Dean of Admissions, punctuated by the story of his life, yielded an unconventional outcome. Instead of an undergraduate program, they catapulted him straight into graduate school, bypassing the traditional degree requirement. His professors marveled at his ability to excel without taking a single note during lectures. He relied on his unmatched capacity to absorb knowledge through listening and reading. Following his graduation, my grandparents embarked on a global journey, accompanied by my mother and aunt. They traveled, learned, and explored the world, documenting their experiences on video. These recordings now stand as precious artifacts, preserving his musings on life and his profound insights. They serve as a testament to the breadth of his knowledge and the impact of his wisdom on generations to come.
Though my grandfather has been gone for 24 years, the legacy of his experiences and wisdom endures. Ironically, a disease contracted during his time as a POW, a disease of the heart, claimed his life half a century later. In a sense, the war did eventually take its toll on him. Yet, his enduring voice resonates through the years, offering counsel to listen attentively and inquire earnestly. He imparted the wisdom that in the spaces between words, one finds the richest lessons. He encouraged a holistic perspective, reminding me that while the devil may dwell in the details, the most profound insights emerge when we consider the bigger picture. His memory echoes the remarkable journey of a young farm boy from Kentucky who became one of the bravest individuals I wish I could have met, both by necessity and by choice. He exemplifies unwavering determination, teaching me never to surrender, even in the face of unimaginable challenges.
In summary, my grandfather was not only brilliant and complex but also a beacon of courage. His sacrifices during the war, like those of countless others, are a testament to their bravery. The dedication of a highway in his name signifies an honor not just for him but for all the valiant soldiers who gave so much for the cause of freedom. To me, however, he will always be more than a war hero. He will forever be my grandfather, my inspiration, and a symbol of resilience and wisdom that continues to shape my perspective on life.
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