Memorial Day: Remembering those from the Past

As I was contemplating this Memorial Day and the many family members that have served our country through the years, I went searching through some family papers that I photographed while visiting my Auntie in Hawaii last year before she died.  I didn't take too much time reading through them in Hawaii, I was just trying to image as much information as possible.  Today I came across a couple letters from my Great Uncle Herbert Pililaau whom I have blogged about before.  He died during the Korean War defending his country and fellow soldiers.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice.  I found a letter he wrote to his sister, my grandmother, a few weeks before he would die.  Here are a few excerpts from his letter dated August 10, 1951:

"…I had to pull guard, and later that night about 11:45pm we had gone down into the valley for a special mission.  Yesterday, August 9th, we came back to the camp about 7:00pm in the evening.  We couldn't stay in the valley because it was too dangerous.  I was so tired from walking sixteen miles up and down the valley… I hope that none of my brothers would think that the infantry is a good unit.  That's all we had been doing ever since we got here, is walking.  By the time I get back home, I'll be a good mountain climber.  Well sis, we have a nickname for our enemy.  We called our enemies, 'Goose.'  Whenever we are going out on patrol, we would say 'Lookout for the wild goose, they are hidden in the bushes.'  Its safe where we are now because the French are in front of us."

My Great Uncle goes on to describe life in Korea as well as the soldiers fighting with the communists. You can read the full letter by clicking on the image below.

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Here's another letter the last one before he would be killed on September 17th, 1951:

"Dear sis,

I received three days ago, the poi, aku, dry shrimp, lau-lau and kim chee with a stationary folio in a long box… I was so glad to receive the food, that I didn't go for chow.  I just sat right down in the bomb shelter and ate…"

I can't imagine what it must have been for Uncle to sit in a bomb shelter and eat for the last time, unbeknownst to him, his final Hawaiian food.  This letter might have been the last one received from him before he was killed.

I then found another letter from my grandfather to my Uncle.  It brought tears to my eyes as I read these words.  Letter dated October 10th, 1951 less than a month after my Uncle was killed but obviously the family had not received word about Herbert's death yet.

"I know this letter is past due.  I have thought of you often but I just don't like to write letters.  We all pray for you including Chuckie.  He asks for your blessing by God in his prayer.  I know it must be tough over there but don't ever give up hope."

Chuckie is my dad's nickname.  He was a young boy at this time.  As I read that first line, I was saddened to realize that Herbert was never able to read this letter.  It made me realize that we have to reach out to each other and express our love and concern for one another now in the moment as we think of those we love.  We do not know how much time we will have here on earth or those of our loved ones.  What a sad day it must have been to have received this letter returned.  Check out what the envelope says on the front.


Near the end of grandpa's letter he says, "Abbie has been having a bit of trouble getting enough rest lately.  But it shouldn't be long before you will be uncle again, this week or next.  No one has heard from you for over three weeks.  So I guess you have been busy up front on the new drive."  

Uncle had already been killed in Korea.

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So this Memorial Day as we honor and remember those who have fought for our country, let's take sometime today, right now, to write, call, text or email someone that you might be thinking about and express to them your love and support.  We never know what tomorrow may bring.  In honor of my Great Uncle, Happy Memorial Day Uncle until we meet in a happier place where war will be gone and peace will prevail.

Herbert Pililaau