Marine Corps Activity Guam Marines wrapped up support for the island’s 69th Liberation celebration Sunday by participating in the Liberation Day Parade, the culminating event in a series of ceremonies and celebrations across the island.
The small band of Marines permanently stationed on Guam participated in and supported events throughout the week to honor their shared history with island residents and join in this tremendous annual celebration.
Corporal Chris Henderson, a native of Arkansas and the training chief for Marine Corps Activity Guam said working with local residents during the week showed him how closely Marines are tied to the island’s history.
“You get to see how the Chamorro look at the Marines for what they did here,” Henderson explained, “and you actually get to know that you’re a part of the history of why the island is free today.”
Liberation events include memorials, ceremonies, fiestas and celebrations of life and freedom in each village across the island. Residents honor victims of massacre sites and the brutality of occupation, while also emphasizing forgiveness of their former enemy. Guam Marines attended memorials, in which they lit candles and honored lives lost, supported joint color guards at events, and assisted residents in preparing their memorial site for their celebration. These events culminated in a festive parade July 21, and Marines again joined in the celebration as guests on several village floats.
The whole month of July is dedicated to Liberation preparation and activities leading up to the parade, the same day U.S. forces landed on Guam in 1944 to free local residents from Japanese occupation and oppression.
Naval cruisers, battleships and destroyer escorts bombarded the island for 13 days to dislocate the Japanese. At 08:28 on July 21, 1944, Marines began the assault at Agat and Agana, sustaining heavy casualties.
After three weeks, the Japanese ceased fire and almost all resistance ceased. Guam was free, but paid with many lives lost. Events in the Liberation week are humbling reminders of the price of freedom.
Residents mark the historical importance of the month by remembering the lives of local Chamorros who died from the Japanese invasion in December 1941 through the occupation and liberation and the Marines who gave their lives during the invasion and liberation. 3,055 residents and Marines died during this time.
Marines are still held in high-regard on the island for their efforts to free residents, a testament to the strong Guam culture remembering the past.
“Marines are looked at as the liberators of Guam here during the 21st of July. Any year you will not see a hand turned away from a Marine or a good welcome, so in general military are well-perceived, but Marines are even more-so,” said Lieutenant Commander Edward Casas, Executive Officer at Guam’s Navy Munitions Command, East Asia Division, and a native of Weslaco Texas.
Liberation events are also cultural celebrations in which they pay tribute to service members for their service and those who have served to commemorate the liberation and the continued defense of Guam. This island pride goes beyond the defense of the island, but also of the United States as a whole.
Guam Lieutenant Governor Raymond S. Tenorio said, “The freedoms that sometimes we take for granted other people covet and want, and when we see our military members out there, we know they’re fighting for those same freedoms.”
As Liberation events drew to a close, the parade completed this year’s celebration. A joint color guard made of Marines, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Air Force and Guam Army National Guardsmen led the parade to open the festivities while hundreds of people cheered along the route.
Organizations, groups and families all took part in presentations along the route while music played and crowds celebrated. Residents offered local food and shared music with island visitors in attendance and continued to celebrate throughout the day.
“Liberation day in Guam has helped the community to accept the past,” said Joana Margaret Castro Blas, Asan mayor. “Although we have lost a lot, we commemorate them on this month of July.”