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Letter: Prayers for Philippines children of long ago

By Clarence J. Majerus, New Ulm

I spent my days overseas on Leyte Island in the Philippines. I had lots of experiences with Japanese soldiers, but one that really remains on my mind was as a Master Sergeant over there for the 803 Field Artillery. I was the Chief Mess Sergeant; we were feeding about 150 GI’s each day. We were set up on the edge of the jungle, with camouflage nets and palm leaves covering the mess tent.

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One day after the soldiers were fed, I noticed three boys. Each of them had a tin can in their hand, and they were looking at me with big smiling faces. I put some food in their cans.

The next day I had five or six kids; the day after 12 to 15, all with their tin cans. Soon, that group became about a block long. I kept them all in a line, because at noon all the soldiers were lined up. Then came the kids; I told the cooks to always add a lot of extra food in the pot.

The captain told me anytime I needed a Jeep to drive to get extra food, just ask. So we made a number of trips over small mountains to Tacloban, to the port where ships were unloading supplies. Any boxes that were broken open, it was help yourself — and we did — all for the kids. We ended up having a very well-stocked kitchen.

The trip over the mountains always seemed to go well, until one time we came to a charred spot and two mortar shells exploded near us. You can believe that is the fastest I ever drove down that mountain to our camp.

The people in the villages were very poor, but always smiling. In their own way, they tried to be helpful. One day a lady brought me a bamboo cup with a fermented juice, a egg and a small corn cob with a stick in it. I was to put the egg in the cup and use the corn cob to mix it.

I took the juice, just to be polite, but never drank it. I saw where they got the juice. They cut a small coconut off and hung a bamboo pail under it. Flies and bugs were in Bug Heaven all over that pail, sipping away. Not a good idea to drink that stuff!

A Philippino made me a bolo knife and also a scabbard. It was about 11 inches long; very nice. I still have it at home.

I hear all the news on TV of the storm in Tacloban, but never anything about what is going on with all the small villages on the other side of the mountain.

I think of those people in the villages — the ones I fed so long ago would be in their 70s now with families of their own. I have been trying to think of some place that they could have went for safety, but to me there was no place to go. Their small bamboo huts and all their possessions could have washed out to sea, including all the small villages and the people in it.

So, they are my people, and I think of them each day. I pray for them each day — that maybe some miracle happened on the other side of the mountain from Tacloban.

I could write a book of the different experiences on Leyte Island. But at my age (95), I’d rather go fishing, or shopping with my wife, Mina. Still, I think of those smiling faces, and I wonder — where are they now? My kids I fed so long ago, with their smiling faces? Are they safe? I hope someday I will find out.

Editor’s note: The author is a former resident of Worthington and Adrian.