Happy Independence Day: A Story About Becoming American

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46 Responses

  1. Jason says:

    Amazing story, Ken. This is my first time reading this, so I want to say thank you for sharing. It is extremely touching.

  2. Tiago says:

    Dang, I'm not american but this was a hell of a story, thanks for sharing!

  3. Swindapa says:

    (something in my eye)

  4. My first time hearing it as well (sadly for me, Popehat has only recently hit my radar…and subsequently found its place in my RSS reader).

    I hope it's not the last time you post it.

  5. Kat says:

    Thank you. I have felt deluged and dragged down by the negative of late and stories like this remind me there is hope.

  6. Chris says:

    @Swindapa, me too.

  7. azteclady says:

    Thank you, Ken.

  8. Pete says:

    Your mention of the Bataan Death March reminds me of a survivor I was privileged to know, whom I'll call Mr. B. Mr. B. was a kind, simple, hardworking man who labored as a farm hand for most of his life. After my grandfather passed on, Mr. B asked to rent his small farm so that he would be able to raise a very small herd of cattle to supplement his Social Security income. We had a wonderful relationship for many years, where Mr. B was able to live on the property rent-free in exchange for keeping up the house and farm. As the years passed, life became harder and harder for Mr. B. His wife passed, and he cared for his middle aged, special needs daughter alone. He was old, in pain, and could do less and less. Eventually this survivor of the Bataam Death March took his own life.

    I'm not sure of the point I'm trying to make here, or why I've attached it to this particular post. I suppose I simply have the sense that Mr. B was a fine man who loved this great country, and we somehow we failed him. It seems appropriate to remember him today.

  9. Luke says:

    Thank you Ken, that is a great story.

  10. Kelly says:

    What a lovely story. I too find that I have something in my eye. Thank you, Ken, for sharing this with us.

  11. nlp says:

    Thank you. I loved the story when you posted it earlier, and have gone back to reread it on occasion. It's a reminder of some of our worst (reneging on a promise) and also our best; the land of hope and opportunity that so many people look for.

    But for some reason I always cry when I read it.

  12. icekat says:

    A wonderful and moving story about a part of our history I wasn't aware of until today. Thank you for posting it.

    One minor note; if you ever re-publish this, the sentence toward the end of the next-to-last paragraph should read "…too weak or indifferent…" You've got the wrong "to" in there. (Sorry. Professional editor. Occupational hazard. :) )

  13. Scott Jacobs says:

    I always love reading this story…

  14. Katryna says:

    (cries like a little baby)

  15. Squillo says:

    Thanks for sharing that beautiful (and infuriating) story.

  16. Ren says:

    I earned my US Citizenship late last year, and it is quite the feeling to be able to cross the border with less hassle and be able to flip the bird at my elected representatives (because I can vote now) without fear of retribution. It's the fringe benefits of citizenship that I like.

    Thanks for this story, Ken.

  17. MET says:

    Ken, I have been accused many times of cynicism losing my patriotism – but clearly those people are not looking now, because they'd feel bad seeing me crying like a child while reading this post. It takes somebody who has stared down quite a bit of disillusionment to write a love-letter like this. Good for you, sir.

  18. Bakerina says:

    I can't say it any better than the previous commenters have already said it. Thank you, Ken. That was amazing.

  19. Pmagruder says:

    Thank you for this.

  20. Karl Bunday says:

    Great story. And very appropriate for July 4.

    I do have one question. The article says, "They waited 54 years." If that is counting from 1946 to 1990, isn't that 44 years? I ask, because a larger portion of the veterans would die off in the longer time span than the shorter time span. I'm pretty sure that an event you witnessed in "the early nineties" happened less than fifty years after any part of American (or Philippine) involvement in World War II.

    Have a happy holiday.

  21. edgreen86 says:

    What is that damn thing that's getting in everyone's eye today?

    (Spent 20 years in the US Military and did a tour in the Phillippines. Thanks so much for a reminder of how, even when we screw things up, we try to fix it…)

  22. Davey says:

    I'm reminded of the saying that "Familiarity breeds contempt". Thanks for reminding me of the value of US citizenship.

  23. Dan Weber says:

    When you write your book, this should be the very first page.

  24. Jonathan Z. Cohen says:

    This is a great story. Also extremely well-written.

  25. M. says:

    As someone who's repeatedly tried to emigrate out, I find stories like this reassuring and uplifting. Thank you.

  26. htom says:

    Must be that I need to change the furnace filters. Very dusty in here today. Thank you, Ken, and thank you, Pete. The worst, and the best, of us.

    Happy Independence Day!

  27. Jack Leyhane says:

    This is the first time I've read this story. And I kept getting something in my eye, too.

    Thank you.

  28. deezerd says:

    Four years of of Army Reserve service, seven years as an expat … one side of the family hit Long Island in 1635, the other snuck in from Sicily via Canada around WWI. My love of my country has never been small, but never simple either – and these men show what a powerful thing it is, that it can rise above all that. Thank you SO much, Ken. :')

  29. Matthew Cline says:

    In cases like this, what would it take to posthumously grant citizenship?

  30. squaawkbox says:

    Beautiful story. Read for the first time too.
    Unfortunately not just the US but the UK too…

    Echos…
    "The worst, and the best, of us" as htom said.

    "… to believe in the shared idea of what … should be without abandoning the struggle to right its wrongs." as you eloquently stated.

  31. Nick says:

    Thanks a lot–after reading this, I had to go yell at my wife for cutting onions.

  32. Marzipan says:

    An excellent story, not least of all for its rendering of the perseverance of hope throughout the decades. A heckuvan externship experience to start a distinguished career.

  33. Michael says:

    @ Pete. Not that equity in benefits is a simple fact but the VA might have provided an extra pension. The early part of the war against Japan was marked by personal humiliation on our side. Rather like the Germans would march the Jews around and under feed them and Ann Frank's mother might have saved the children if she had groveled for a proffered work assignment, the Japanese treated us. There is an implicit assumption that there was a military necessity for the Death March; fill me in. I suppose the Filipinos were treated similarly; so the fact that somebody would give a s- about them might be received with a deep comradeship.

  34. Roger Smart says:

    Thank you Ken. Now if you'll excuse me I've got to go find a tissue.

  35. Rowie says:

    Actually, they weren't "born Filipinos," if by "Filipino," you are referring to Filipino citizenship. A Filipino born in, say, 1920, was born during a time when the Philippines was a colony of the United States. He was therefore a US national. There was no such thing as "Filipino citizenship" at the time because the Philippines was an American colony.

  36. Alex says:

    @Rowie, The Philippines were granted independence in 1934 under the Tydings-McDuffie Act. At that point all Filipinos became aliens for the purposes of immigration, which was limited to 50 people per year.

  37. goddessmer says:

    this is a wonderful story, thank you so much for sharing with us.

  38. Rowie says:

    @Alex, the US was granted provisional independence in 1934, with complete independence to come in July 4, 1946. But if a veteran was born in 1920, he was a US national from 1920 to 1935. He only became a Filipino citizen in 1935, so he was not "born Filipino," which is what the article says.

    From 1935 to 1946, ethnic Filipinos who fought for the US were still allowed to claim benefits from the US government; in 1946, their rights to benefits were rescinded.

  39. Rowie says:

    It's still a moving story, and it may seem pointless to quibble with details, but to fully understand what happened to these veterans, these details are important.

  40. Rowie says:

    Sorry, I need to correct myself. I did some more research and it turns out that the ruling American government did create a category of "citizen of the Philippine Islands" in 1916 through the Jones Law, though these "citizens of the Philippine Islands" also remained US nationals at the same time. To be a "citizen of the Philippine Islands" at the time, of course, did not mean the same thing as being a "Filipino citizen" now, because the Philippine Islands were not a sovereign state. I suppose it was analogous to calling one's self a "citizen of California" or a "citizen of Texas."

  41. Shell says:

    Thank you for this post, Ken, and especially for this part: "They are moved by what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature to believe in the shared idea of what America should be without abandoning the struggle to right its wrongs."

    That is what I try to get across to people who condemn my and others' patriotism, how I am and how we should all be. We may never achieve those ideals but the fact that we try should matter to everyone. It does to me.

  42. flip says:

    Beautifully written – and full of hope.

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