Tonight, I had the honor to go listen to a WWII veteran and his wife speak at the Alumni Center here on ISU’s campus. It was an extra credit opportunity for my American Family Diversity class, but honestly, I would’ve gone even if it was for no credit. I’ve never been much of a history person, but I have always loved talking about World War 2. And my teacher informed us that this was the last year they would do the vets panel, since the veterans have gotten so old now or have already passed away.
The wife (Jean) started out by telling us about her life here in Normal as a college student during the war. I think the coolest thing for me was when she spoke of how the marching band here on campus went from an all men band to a mixed band because of the war. Since all the men were away fighting, girls were pulled from the concert band to go march. Of course I would think this was cool, since I used to march in the band here on campus.
When the man (Howard) spoke of his time in the war, he brought up a story once of when he was over seas and Japanese aircrafts had swooped in to attack American bases there. I really was engaged in his story when he started telling of how later (I think at church), he met a man and after conversing with him, realized that he had been the leader of that attack so many years before. Howard starting speaking of how amazing it is that you can make all sorts of connections with people, and I can definitely agree with that from my time in college.
What really touched my heart was when he talked of his forgiveness of the Japanese. Like a lot of Americans back then, Howard admitted that he wasn’t a big fan of the Japanese people after the time of the war. He and Jean later decided to become host families for international students. They were presented with a Japanese girl, and though reluctant at first, decided to take her in. He went on to say how close she became to them, a second daughter even. Howard’s perspective had changed, and then he said this: “People are people. You can become friends with anybody, no matter what.” That was so eye-opening for me. There are a lot of people out there that are prejudiced against certain people for stupid reasons, maybe even for no reason at all. And honestly, I can understand why Howard felt the way he did. But it was so amazing for someone that even with his bad experiences, could be forgiving and learn to be open-minded. I wish more people, young and old, could be that way.
This has been quite the sappy post, but I haven’t posted anything in a long time. And I felt like this opportunity was too good to pass up.
Good night, and good luck studying.