Surviving Our Fallen: Chamorros, Militarism, Religiosity, and 9/11
“I have memories of a war that took place before I was born…These stories inhabit my mind and body.”
Thus wrote Pacific scholar Vicente Diaz, in his essay “Deliberating ‘Liberation Day’: Identity, History, Memory, and War in Guam” (2001). He suggests that one of the dominant beliefs of Liberation Day is that the Marines who landed were saviors: “The worshipping of the Americans by the Chamorros in the postwar years…underscores the religiosity of the event, a solemnity and piety of which there was plenty to go around” (161). This intersection of militarism and religiosity ignited “codes of indigenous indebtedness.” Our land, our culture, our language. Our sons and daughters.
Are Chamorro bodies analogous to the bodies that Tintoretto painted? Sacrificial bodies that serve the narrative of sacrifice?
i lina’la’ tataotao
[U.S. Army Pfc. Kasper Allen Camacho Dudkiewicz, 23, of Chalan Pago was killed Jan. 15, in Mosul, Iraq, when the Humvee in which he was the gunner was involved in a vehicle collision]
[U.S. Army Pfc. Henry Paul, 24, of Kolonia, in the FSM state of Pohnpei, and another soldier died Sept. 26, in Baghdad of injuries sustained when their M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle rolled over]
[U.S. Army Sgt. Jesse Castro, 22, a Guam native, was one of five soldiers killed Dec. 6, when a roadside explosion destroyed their Humvee in Kirkuk Province in Iraq]
In 2006, the U.S. announced a major realignment of U.S. military forces and operations in the Asia-Pacific region. Guam would bear the burden of a military buildup, one of the largest in U.S. history. It includes the construction of facilities to house and support the transfer of 8,600 marines, their 9,000 dependents, 7,000 transient Navy personnel, 600-1000 Army personnel, and 20,000 foreign workers; the establishment of an Air and Missile Defense Task Force; a firing range complex; and the creation of a deep-draft wharf in Apra Harbor for nuclear powered aircraft carriers.
Guam’s landmass is roughly 212 square miles.
The buildup will increase Guam’s overall population by about 30 percent, causing a 20-year population growth over the next five years.
According to their plan, the military will take at least 2,300 more acres of land (the U.S. military already occupies one third of the island). The sacred lands that stretch from Marbo Caves to Pagat Caves (an area rich with ancient Chamorro artifacts and remains) will be used as a firing and bombing range. The area near Mount Lamlam, where thousands of island residents pilgrimage every year on Good Friday, may also be used as a firing range.
In addition, the construction of permanent military facilities and infrastructure will desecrate ancient burial sites, eliminate hundreds of acres of jungle and medicinal plants, and deny access to sacred sites and fishing grounds. Construction will decimate the endangered ifit trees—Guam’s official tree used for timber and crafts—and remove dukduk trees, traditionally used by canoe builders. A camp for tens of thousands of laborers will replace another hundred acres of jungle. More will be razed to make way for the luxury military homes.
The dredging and construction of a deep-draft wharf in Apra harbor for the passage of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers—which will bring 5,600 additional people to Guam while ported 63 days a year—will rip 2.3 million square feet of living coral reef from the ocean floor. The damselfish, clownfish and butterfly fish—all attached to their territory in Apra harbor—will be killed. So will the 6-foot blue elephant ear sponges that brighten the coral. The birthing area for scalloped hammerhead sharks will be disrupted: they give birth directly in the carriers’ path into the wharf. The green sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle and Spinner dolphin—all protected by federal law—will be killed.
The total amount of hazardous waste produced by the increased military presence will equal 8 tons per year. Add that to the eighty contaminated military dumpsites that still exist on Guam, there is no doubt that the abnormally high cancer rates among Chamorros will continue as our exposure to radiation and other toxins continues.
While destroying our land and water, the military buildup will erode our social systems. There will be a twenty percent enrollment increase in the civilian public schools, yet no supplemental funding is being provided to prepare the already struggling public schools for such an influx. Additionally, health care and social services will be overrun.
Like the invasive brown tree snakes that colonized Guam’s environment and decimated our native bird population, and like the invasive coconut rhinocerous beetles that are destroying our trees, the invasive human species of the U.S. military will lead to further environmental and cultural devastation.
[U.S. Marine Cpl. Adam Quitugua Emul, 20, from Tanapag, Saipan, was killed in action while conducting combat operations in Iraq’s Al-Anbar province on Jan. 29]
[U.S. Army Cpl. Lee Roy Apatang Camacho, 27, from Saipan died of wounds he sustained from an explosion Feb. 9, in Baqoubah, Iraq]
[Guam Army National Guard Sgt. Gregory D. Fejeran was killed in Ethiopia on March 6, when the vehicle he was in rolled over. He was 28]
[Guam Army National Guard Sgt. Christopher Fernandez was killed in Ethiopia on March 6, when the vehicle he was in rolled over. He was 28]
[U.S. Army Spc. John D. Flores, 21, of Barrigada, was one of two soldiers killed May 3, when their unit came under attack by enemy fire in Baghdad]
[U.S. Army Pfc. Victor Michael Fontanilla, 23, was killed in a bomb blast in Iraq on May 17]
[U.S. Army Sgt. Iosiwo Uruo died on May 24, in Buhriz, Iraq, of wounds suffered when his unit came under attack by enemy forces using small arms fire. He was 27]
[U.S. Army Cpl. Meresebang Ngiraked, 21, of Koror, Palau, died June 10, from injuries he sustained from a vehicle-based improvised explosive device in Karbala, Iraq]
[Army Pfc. Jose Charfauros Jr., 33, of Rota was one of 14 soldiers killed in a single day in Iraq]
[Army Maj. Henry Ofeciar died on Aug. 27, when enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades attacked his unit in Afghanistan. He was 37]
[Navy Master-at-arms Anamarie San Nicolas Camacho, 20, of Tinian and Guam, was killed in Bahrain on Oct. 25, 2007]
“i lahi-hu gaige giya Iraq”
“i haga-hu gaige giya Afghanistan”