CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan – Guam Army National Guardsmen from the 1-294th Infantry Regiment celebrated something significant on July 22, but minimized the event out of respect for Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Ramadan started early July and continues until Aug. 7.
The day serves as Guam’s 69th Liberation Day, a reflection when United States military freed Guam from Japanese occupation during World War II. Japan’s imperial forces overtook Guam 1941-1944, marking a critical period in Guam’s history. But on that significant day, Army and Marine units fought through Japan’s defenses and reclaimed the island back to the native Chamorros.
“The occupation was a time of tremendous hardship for the Chamorro people, our people, and the indigenous people of Guam,” said 1st Sgt. Noel Leon Guerrero, first sergeant, Charlie Company, Task Force Guam. “Residents of Guam were subjected to forced labor, forced marches and deprivation at the hands of the enemy. The entire population was forced to march to several internment camps in Guam.”
Coincidentally, July 21 marks the 32nd birthday of the Guam National Guard. Its command headquarters was first established July 21, 1981, with 32 original charter members. The organization’s authorized strength has grown to more than 1,700 members between its Army and Air Guard commands.
Guam’s liberation festivities are annually held with a carnival, parade and fiesta-style barbecues. Task Force Guam’s multiple units are dispersed throughout Afghanistan, and Liberation Day will be celebrated accordingly based upon each unit’s location.
“We are hosting a barbeque for the (Regional Command-South) staff and leadership. We will introduce the island cuisine to all invited,” said Maj. Florante Manaloto, commander, Foxtrot Company, Task Force Guam, located in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.
“This celebration is near and dear to our hearts, it’s when family and friends camp out, barbecue and sleep a day or two before the big parade,” said Task Force Guam’s Alpha Company 1st Sgt. Joe S.A. Lizama, stationed at Camp Spann and Forward Operating Base Kunduz in northeast Afghanistan. However, Alpha Company moved their Liberation Day events to July 18 to accommodate the local population’s work schedule. Also, Guam Guardsmen are scheduled to be on mission July 21.
“It’ll be much more beneficial and safer for our Soldiers to barbecue toward the evening hours. Weather has been well over 100 degrees,” Lizama added. “Lastly and most importantly, since we are in the Ramadan season, we want to ensure that we respect our local Afghanistan employees, their culture and beliefs.”
Guam’s liberation is very significant to Guam’s island community. Close to 600 Chamorri warriors volunteered for this historic Operation Enduring Freedom mission to assure the safety and freedom of their island in connection with helping the Afghanistan people.
“Our commitment to democracy comes with a price and this is why I serve to do my part,” Maj. Rick Flores, Charlie Company commander, said. “Liberation is a reminder of the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen who gave their lives to liberate us and fought for our freedom.”
“It means even more to us that we are in Afghanistan. Our families and the whole island can enjoy the freedom to celebrate even after 69 years, because our Soldiers sacrifice their luxury and comfort of their home so we all can continue to enjoy the very freedom our fallen heroes had sacrificed their lives for.”
“The Liberation of Guam is one of the most important commemorations held annually for the Chamorro people,” Leon Guerrero stated. “Liberation Day is a time of remembrance and celebration. The people of Guam commemorate the sacrifices of those who endured the occupation and those who gave their lives to liberate the island. We celebrate the triumph of our people over adversity and oppression.”