Maximino Valle 1896-1984 SFC First Class WWI-WWII

Mixamino Valle 1896-1984 SFC First Class WWI-WWII
I realized on Friday that I hadn’t visited my "grandpa" since he died in 1984. As life became more complex and busy, transitioning from a high school freshman to 20 something years later, a father of 2 and full time corporate-type, I just never stopped by to visit. In anticipation of a busy weekend, I prepared to leave the office on Friday with the intent of visiting him in Los Gatos and catch up on 23 years…

img041_2.jpgMaximino wasn’t my real grandfather — my extended family, the type Filipinos are famous for, adopted him. Until he joined the family, he didn’t have one of his own. He was never married and had no children, but he managed to have tons of grand kids who treated him like a grandfather. Like any grandparent, he liked to buy us treats we weren’t supposed to have — ice cream, chocolate, candy, etc… and liked to spoil each one of us rotten. Once in a while, he would chase us around waving his cane in the air when we would try to find candy in his room.

One day, when I was about 6 years old, he caught us searching for candy, and chased us away. I went back to his room to apologize. To my surprise, I could hear him laughing hysterically — I poked my head in to say that I was sorry, as I started to say the words, he told me to go into his room, my older cousin saw I had entered and left his hiding spot to follow me in. I thought I was going to be in BIG trouble. While the others hid, he explained that he could never be angry at us — it was all part of his game. He was actually leaving candy for us to find — the faster we found the candy, the faster we would leave his room. He wanted to make sure that we never found what he was really trying to hide — an unloaded pistol he had been given while he was in the Army. Our parents knew he had it. It wasn’t any different from the firearms that my parents and my cousins’ parent’s had in our house and in theirs as well. Once we knew what he was hiding, we stopped going into his room, and stopped all of the other kids from entering. The other reason he gave us was he couldn’t get into trouble for giving us sweets that didn’t belong to us… his super-sly way of saying that he left the candy for us to find… a form of plausible denial I suppose.

Grandpa was one of many Filipinos who enlisted in the United States Army, and is one of the few Filipinos who fought in both World Wars. I used to like to go through his war memorabilia, including his sidearm, uniform, misc photos and autographed photos of the war generals like General Mac Arthur. About a year before he died, I asked if I could see the photos again, he told me he had thrown them away "in da rubbish", in his kind-of-sort-of Hawaiian pigeon English. He told me that those were memories of a war he wanted to forget. He explained that in 1983, he could still remember the things he did, the smells, the faces… everything… all from the World Wars. He told me that he was extremely proud to have served the United States, and to have helped protect his homeland, the Philippines. He struggled, lifelong, to put those memories to rest. He explained to me that war memories shouldn’t be glorified… they only sound good when you’re not the one who experienced them…

Those words haunted me back then but didn’t understand why. Last Friday, those words were clear. It’s the same struggle that a number of war veterans who’ve seen action struggle with — they’re proud of their service, but can’t get past all the terrible memories. Originally, I was going to put a flag, then decided not to. I was there to catch up with the grandpa I knew and that he was, not with the soldier that he was struggling to forget.

The irony is that until this Memorial Day, I forgot.

2 Comments so far

  1. joann Landers (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 8:59 am

    You were lucky to have your Grandpa. Thank you for sharing the remembrance.

  2. randramble (unregistered) on May 29th, 2007 @ 7:26 pm

    Nice one, Victor!

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