I guess one might call it a liberation of sorts, although in all honesty, the fact that I left Guam on Liberation Day has nothing to do with any sense of freedom I feel right now.
I loved working there, and the truth is, freedom can be scary when you have no idea what to do with it next— i.e. unemployed.
It’s just that I promised myself “only two years on Guam,” not a day more, not a day less, and it happens that two years ago, that clock started ticking, a day before Liberation Day, when I joined the Pacific Daily News. The next day, after processing through HR, I was covering my first assignment, the Liberation Day parade, clad in all black, a mixture of rain and sweat dripping from my face and neck onto my reporter’s notebook, smudging my notes as I was interviewing locals on the significance of this decades-old tradition of lining along Marine Corps Drive to view some 30-something floats in commemoration of U.S. Marines’ liberation of Guam following the Japanese occupation.
I didn’t know standing under that unforgiving sun two years ago that I’d hear a dozen more wartime stories and pleas for war reparations for Guam’s survivors;
• that I’d feel a slight sense of resentment myself when President Obama twice postponed and then canceled his trip to Guam after building up local officials’ hopes that he would personally address residents’ concerns regarding Guam’s role in the East Asia realignment;
• that I’d want to put bar bouncers in their place by citing Guam’s high per capita enlistment rate every time I came back home and my Guam driver’s license wasn’t accepted as a valid form of identification (“Maam, we need a U.S. id… or passport”); or
• that in two years I’d actually care for the people of this tiny island, who for years have been begging the federal government to recognize and compensate them for their contributions to the country, and the federal government, like a mother refusing to acknowledge a child throwing a tantrum, wouldn’t even flinch.
Ultimately, Guam was the two-year stand that I actually fell for. I should have known better.
What I do know now is that my connection to Guam isn’t cut. I know I will be returning, at least to visit. So until then, esta, Guam.