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70 years later, lessons endure

It was 70 years ago, Aug, 15, 1945, that Japan surrendered, thus bringing an end to World War II that started nearly six years earlier, Sept. 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland.

The loss of life from that war was staggering. Civilian and military deaths by country totaled: Germany, about 6 million; Poland, 6 million; Japan, 2.7 million; Soviet Union, 24 million; United States, 420,000; United Kingdom, 450,000.

Many, many more died in what was thought to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, it was not.

The Garden Island has published a series of stories on those who served in World War II. They spoke about what they witnessed, what they endured, what they did to survive. There is a commonality in their stories: War is brutal. Kill or be killed. Good people die. Homes are destroyed. Communities crushed. Countries brought to their knees. Lives forever changed for the worst.

There was hope expressed 70 years ago that perhaps countries could figure out a way to avoid war. But the reality is, that hope is ill-founded. Wars continue. And based simply on that track record, they will continue. War sadly seems bound to be forever part of humanity.

But hope remains.

In speaking with men on Kauai who fought in World War II, who were injured, who saw friends killed, we learned despite what went on and what images are forever ingrained in their minds and memories, they forgave.

Oh, they didn’t forget. Some things, such as fighting for your country and your life in war, the bombs and the bullets, you never forget. But these men continued on with life. They married, raised families, had successful careers, were a blessing to their family and friends and homes. They live with scars we can never understand.

If, after all the bloodshed they witnessed, they can not hold bitterness and hatred in their hearts toward their enemies, perhaps we could do the same today. Perhaps we can forgive others and extend a hand to those who have offended us, angered us, upset us. And who knows? They might just accept that hand.

To those who lived through World War II, we salute you. We thank you for your courage. We thank you for your heart. We thank you for your strength. We thank you for your willingness to die for your country. We thank you for guiding us on a better path.

And we thank you, most of all, for your willingness to forgive.

That may be the best lesson we could all learn.

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