Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Omori

Last week had an unexpected beginning.

Jason had drill last weekend, and we also had church at our house on Sunday (which includes breakfast. what do you mean your church doesn't do that? missing out!). 

In the midst of me opening the door for guests, checking on the breakfast casserole... I get a phone call from my husband.

If you're a military wife, you understand that if your husband is at drill, away on orders, ect... this is abnormal. So abnormal it is usually an indicator something is wrong (anyone recall the herniated disc episode? yeah, at drill).

Jason informs me that someone broke into his friend's car (whom he rode to drill with) and stole all of his military gear he had with him. Vest, helmet, camelback ect... Also his ASU's, or... his dress uniform.

While I was relieved neither of them were hurt or any damage was done to the car, this was most disheartening. Especially the bit about the ASU's. He had just finally completed them, ready for wear. He had been required to for inspection that weekend, but he was also preparing them for the events of April 9th, the revealing of the Omori Flag, a flag his grandfather had a huge part in making.

That absolutely ecstatic man in the middle joyously waving around his nation's flag is Jason's grandfather, Denny Landrum. Here are two links to give you a small part of his story. The first is coverage from channel 12, and the second is a different perspective of the story, but it has Jason in it! The most detailed piece was done by RTD in this article.

I recommend you watch those videos and read the RTD article when you get the time. It's not often that we get to speak on the actions of those in our family who came before us. In this day in age, it simply doesn't come up in conversation often unless someone knew your grandparents.

Short story: all those men in that photo were Prisoners of War (commonly refereed to as POWs) taken captive by the Japanese during WW2 in a prison camp named Omori. While in captivity, these men defiantly rummaged up bed sheets and colored pencils to create an American flag to display on the roof of their quarters to communicate to any Allied planes to not bomb there and to liberate them. They were obviously liberated, but they spent two years and five months in captivity being tortured, not receiving any medical or dental care, and obviously not getting enough food. The American flag they made was lost sometime after the war. Our Uncle Jerry made it one of his life goals to find this flag. And this past year, he finally achieved that goal.
It took 45 years for Jerry to find this flag.
It was a very special day. One that none of us will soon forget! It was so precious to see in greater detail the heritage Jason has. He has always had a deep call to serve others in the military and in all aspects of his life. He was born on Veterans Day for crying out loud! None of this is coincidence, and I'm so blessed to be his wife and marry into such a beautiful family history.

What I was even more struck by was the sweet legacy passed on by Denny to the rest of the family. One of the most evident pieces of his legacy is a deadly, contagious virus he passed onto his descendants - laughter. Jason's dad and his uncles all have a very similar laugh (I assume Denny's laugh was much like theirs) and all have such quick, punny wit... and when they're all together, I have never seen nor heard anything more hilarious. You barely have time to recover from laughing so hard. Such a wonderful medicine to be able to have access to.
Most all of the Landrum family (missing a few here and there)
I was also struck how much POWs go through and how much of their life is sacrificed by being a prisoner. Most POWs suffer greatly with the health affects of their mistreatment and thus do not end up living long lives. This lead me to see more clearly how terribly fortunate I am to have known both sets of my grandparents. Jason (and his other siblings) never got to meet Denny. And even though sometimes I feel such great grief over missing those whom I have lost, I know that I am still so blessed to have loved and lost them rather than to have never met them.
Denny's diary; the pencils used in this diary match those used on the flag.
Knowing more deeply the intense suffering and sacrifice made by POWs also made me appreciate that sense of humor Denny had and passed on. He could have easily made the choice to be bitter and disgruntled the rest of his life about his twenty-nine months of maltreatment. He could have easily made the choice to be angry about it and try to drink his problems away. But he chose to live the rest of his life to the fullest by being positive and making others laugh.

I'm so glad he did, because the fruit of his choice was passed down to my husband who also chooses to make the best of bad situations. Even though all of his military stuff was stolen from him, he chose not to be angry and bitter but just to accomplish whatever needed to be done (filing a police report, insurance claim ect) and make the best of the situation. He didn't get to wear his completed set of his ASUs to the ceremony, but he still got to show his military respect by wearing his ACUs.
I recently read a wonderful quote on attitude and reactions...
“The longer I love, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” - Charles R. Swindoll
Denny reacted to captivity with defiant patriotism and a simple plan to keep everyone alive and get them liberated. He reacted to twenty-nine months of wrongful imprisonment with an attitude of good humor and positivity. We could all do well to view bad situations in a different light; a light of making a conscious effort to react positively to said situations. Who knows, our simple choices may make history one day.