Monday, December 12, 2011
"Standing on the Shoulders of Giants"
Admiral Nimitz once stated that during World War II, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Over the past several days, I have been given the opportunity to spend time with American heroes who proved the Admiral right. They were ordinary men, thrust into unfortunate circumstances, and did extraordinary things motivated by patriotism, duty, and love.
One veteran in particular, Dr. Bruce Heilman, proved to me perspective in any situation can change the outcome. Dr. Heilman was just a young Kentucky boy when the war began. As a high school dropout, he joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen. After a fast paced boot camp, he was deployed and saw action in Okinawa. As Dr. Heilman put it, “The things that strike me most about Okinawa were the mud, blood, wind, and rain.” As we spend more time in Okinawa, I clearly understand what he means. It’s been raining since we arrived.
Today started with an opportunity for the veterans to address Kubasaki High School students located at Camp Foster. To hear Dr. Heilman speak on the ravages of war and simultaneously point out to them how blessed he was during it, truly speaks of his character and how circumstantial perspective can take a negative situation to a positive one.
Next we toured the Nakumura House, which is decades old and steeped in Okinawan history. As we moved from room to room, with our shoes outside, we learned how our once enemy lived. But Dr. Heilman’s current interest and appreciation of the Japanese culture proved to me that under any circumstance, perception could change how prior enemies can interact positively.
Following lunch, our veterans met with Sgt. Major Cook and other active duty Marines serving on Futenma Base and we students were able to share how our veterans have touched our lives in just a short time. I can personally say Dr. Heilman’s wisdom, after enduring one of the worst of wars in history, has forever changed my life.
As the day ended, I reflected on a question I posed to Dr. Heilman. I asked him what part of his service time was the worst and why. He responded in a way I should have expected--with optimism. “There is no part of war I regret. Each event led me to the next, and brought me where I am today.” HIs truth gives me hope for my future, and makes me realize how a paradigm shift is all that is needed to make a negative situation into one that will change your life.