The plaque at U.S, Navy World War II Memorial Park in Guam sums up the importance of the small Pacific Island to the United States.
“When I get to Heaven, the men who died on Guam assuredly will ask me, ‘Lem was Guam worth it?’ I will look at them straight in the eye and say, ‘You’re damn right it was. They were fellow Americans!” Marine Corps Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd said, using words now etched in bronze.
Guam, a U.S. territory, was invaded by the Japanese immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Due to the international dateline, residents of Guam often refer to December 8, 1941, as their Pearl Harbor.
Considering that nearly 1,900 U.S. military personnel and 712 native Chamorros lost their lives defending and later liberating Guam, a visit this week was certainly “worth it,” to American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt and American Legion Auxiliary National President Mary Davis.
“Thirty years ago, I had the opportunity to attend Boys State in New York. It set my path toward the Naval Academy. So I want to thank you for what you do and I’m glad to hear that you are still doing it,” Navy Capt. Hans Sholley, commanding officer of Naval Base Guam told the Legion delegation.
“The American Legion is here as your advocates,” Schmidt said to military briefers from various commands located on the island. “Every day we are in Washington fighting for pay raises, veterans benefits and a strong military to help you and your families.”
Davis reiterated the support available to families through the Auxiliary, including Girls State, scholarships and scouting opportunities. “I was married to a career soldier, so I understand the issues that a lot of your families,” she said.
Guam is projected to receive a significant boost in its military population as troops are sent from Okinawa and other Pacific commands over the next several years. Fortunately, The American Legion already has a presence there through Guam Post 1, where Schmidt met with the post leadership.
“We were honored to have the national commander here, and we understand the importance of growth,” Post 1 Commander Fred Peters said.
Guam was the final stop for the delegation before heading to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for observances marking the 75th anniversary of the infamous attack.