You may have noticed the local government didn't hold a fireworks display to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day. And there will not be any memorial service, ceremony, parade or other event that typically marks the month of July as both the month of the nation’s independence and the island’s liberation.
The governor has announced these events have been canceled out of an abundance of caution.
The island has seen a growing number of COVID-19 cases. As of Saturday, the island had 104 active cases. There have been a total of 288 cases since the tests started on March 12.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health and safety of our people, most especially our beloved manåmko’ who are most vulnerable to the virus; and ... some of our best defenses against the spread of COVID-19 are the use of face masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and limitations on social gatherings,” states the governor’s proclamation, which also names July a "Month of Reflection, Recognition, and Remembrance of Guam’s 76th Liberation Day."
Because of the virus, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero urges us all to celebrate the island’s liberation from the Japanese imperial forces at home, in small gatherings.
“I ask that each of you use the month of July – not just July 21st – to reflect, recognize and remember the events of the Japanese occupation. You can pray. You can speak with manåmko’ from a distance or by telephone or video call because we must remember that while their memories will last forever, the sun must eventually set,” she stated during the proclamation signing ceremony, which was held via online video conference.
“You can also thank a veteran. And if you have a Guam or American flag at home or business, please display them proudly to honor the brave men and women who answered the call to serve – an act that secured our freedom, our way of life, and the peace and prosperity we enjoy today.”
The governor did note that Guam flags will be flown at half staff from July 17-24 “to pay tribute to the fallen and serve as a reminder of our painful past and the progress made since the Japanese occupation.”
It’s a sad reality that our island must take these measures. And while understandable, it would have been nice to have some sort of an event, even if it’s online, just as we celebrated our high school and college graduates.
This month is so important to the island and to the nation. Guam is one of two American jurisdictions that were occupied during World War II, and thousands of people – civilians and American military personnel – died on this island. How did that happen? Why did that happen?
These many events aren’t just a tradition – they’re a reminder of the sacrifices and lives lost; they’re a tool to educate the younger generation, to impress upon them the importance of the events surrounding World War II and the lessons learned from war, so we can continue to live in peace.
What is good is that through various efforts over the years, more manåmko' have shared their stories. The island’s manhoben, the younger generation, have various resources to learn about the lives, struggles and tragic deaths of those who came before them.
We encourage parents, grandparents and even older siblings to share the stories they know and to point children to the resources from which they can learn more. And hopefully, the government’s educational and education-related agencies, from KGTF/PBS, to the Senator Antonio M. Palomo Guam Museum & Chamorro Educational Facility, can find ways where we can share the stories of the civilians and military personnel who fought to survive and liberate the island.