Thursday, March 1, 2012

Our Visit to the Santa Fe Bataan Museum

I want to tell you about our visit to the Santa Fe Bataan Museum last Saturday. I'm not really sure why they call it the Bataan Museum actually, because what it really is, is a museum that commemorates and honors the sacrifices of New Mexicans in ALL U.S. wars. So there are artifacts and exhibits from every war, going all the way back to the Civil War.

But the part of the exhibit that really moved me was a simple glass case in the WWII section that held these items:
  • A letter from a young soldier to his sister, reassuring her that he was well and asking her to give his love to the rest of the family
  • An unopened letter (yes, still unopened) addressed to the soldier, with the sister's return address
  • An unopened PACKAGE wrapped in brown paper and tied with a string (yes, still unopened), also addressed to the soldier
  • The army notification to the soldier's family that he had been killed.
More than anything else in the museum, this glass case with its tragic personal items brought home the sacrifice of war and made it feel deeply personal. A young man, thousands of miles from home and about to face battle, writes to his sister. The sister writes back and sends him a package. But before it arrives, he is gone.

The sister asked that her letter and the package never be opened, and there they are still, in a glass case. What did her letter say? What was in the package? We'll never know, because we aren't meant to. Their contents are between a young girl and her soldier brother, and belong only to them.

It made me think about my grandmother and my father, and what it must have been like on the day they got the news that their son and brother, Clinton Foster Goodwin Jr., had died in battle in France during WWII.

While we were wandering around the museum, I was also reminded of the first time I ever heard of the Bataan Death March. It was when I was watching a televised Memorial Day event. Actor Charles Durning, himself a decorated WWII veteran, read one soldier's personal account of the Death March. The whole time that Durning spoke, tears streamed down his face. It was one of the most moving things I've ever seen, and I couldn't believe that I had never really known about the Bataan Death March before.

Charles Durning

At the museum, I was also reminded of the book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand. It tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic hopeful who served in WWII. After his ship went down, he and two other men survived more than 40 days on a liferaft. But that wasn't the worst part. When they washed up on shore, they were captured by the Japanese. Louis was singled out by the camp commander for brutal physical and emotional torment. Nevertheless, Zamperini's story is one of survival, resilience and triumph of the human spirit.


Louis Zamperini
My post is serious today, but RVPainter has a funny one. He's had a visit from a famous country singer! Check it out HERE

15 comments:

  1. Off to goggle the Bataan Death March....

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    1. A very sad event in history ...

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  2. That museum sounds fascinating.

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  3. The story about the sister and her soldier brother is heartbreaking. I didn't know about a lot of this. Thanks for sharing, Melissa.

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    1. I know - isn't it amazing what ISN'T covered in our history classes??

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  4. Thanks for sharing, those are amazing stories. I think I would have cried at the glass case.

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  5. All wars are such tragedies, for so many families on both sides of the conflict. Heart hurting stuff.

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    1. That's exactly right, my friend.

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  6. I have never heard of the Bataan Death March. Must go learn now. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. It's even worse than we could imagine - amazing how something so tragic could be like a footnote in history.

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  7. Oh, this post made me cry. Maybe because I've been through so many deployments with my husband lately. I just can't stop thinking about that package...and, worse, the letter.

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    1. It was heartbreaking. And you certainly understand the worry and heartache even more than the average person. Sending hugs today.

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  8. I have heard of the Bataan march. What a sad thing to see the unopened letter and package. War is such a dreadful decision and the young pay.
    I've never heard of that book. Sounds like something I'd love to read. Amazing!

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