In honor of Memorial Day:
The beauty of the human heart can transcend any circumstance.
My Uncle George was 17 years old when he was stationed in Saipan, Japan during World War II. He wanted to serve his country so badly that he lied about his age and said that he was 18. I’ll never know what he experienced in the war because he never talked to me about it. But my aunt did tell me this. When he was dying of lung cancer in his late seventies, he asked her to keep one thing after he passed. At first I thought she was going to say his beloved boat or favorite hunting rifle or even his well worn truck, but no, it was a present that he’d received during the war, a gift that was very precious to him.
This really surprised me. Since he never talked about the war, I assumed that he wouldn’t want any reminders. Then she showed me the gift. It was a very ordinary looking silver ring. “Your uncle was stationed in Saipan to guard Japanese prisoners of war,” she said. “There was a young prisoner there, about his age, and they got to know one another. They were just a couple of kids out on an Island in the middle of nowhere.”
She paused for a moment and looked down at the ring. She slowly rubbed it with her thumb. When she looked up again there were tears in her eyes. Then she cleared her throat and continued. “In those days fifty cent pieces were real silver and sometimes people made them into rings. This Japanese prisoner offered to make one for your uncle so George got him a fifty cent piece. When the war ended they went their separate ways and never heard from one another again. But your uncle wore that ring for over 60 years.”
We sat quietly together for a very long time, staring at the ring. Somehow it didn’t look so ordinary anymore.