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Grandpaís Promise

 article about Grandpaís Promise

This article belongs to In Search of Laughs! column.


10,000 miles from his home, I wept and saluted his grave. Even though I never knew my Grandpa, I've always struggled with the hole he left in my mother's life. Now, on this windy bluff, overlooking Manila Bay, I wanted some answers from Major Van Frederick Houston. So, I decided to ask him.

On a whirlwind tour of 12 countries and some 43 bases, I felt proud to do some comedy shows for our American troops so far from home. Our first months went so fast. I toured every federal post on the west coast my security clearance allowed. After whizzing through Korea and Japan, we went to The Philippines. How cool! My family history intersects the Pacific nations for 3 generations, so this was a heaven sent chance. My Dad was there during Vietnam and Mom's Dad was a prisoner of war there, in WW2. Now I was visiting too. Great! I had some questions.

With two days off before my next show, I decided to search some cemeteries for a clue about my mother's father. I inquired and received a recommendation for an independent cabbie named Frado. He knew 3 of the 5 cemeteries I wanted to visit, so off we went. After no results at the first three, Frado asked me why I was doing this. I told him: My grandfather was captured and held as a POW on Luzon in 1942. My mom only had two letters from him before he was reported killed. I was here to find out why he never came home to her. Frado said that his grandfather was also killed fighting in the same area. He then said he'd heard of one more place to search. We went to The Cemetery Of Heroes, marked by some big, rolling hills, looking southwest to the Bataan peninsula. The Sergeant of The Guard politely checked ID and my credentials and showed me where to look. After fluttering my way through several large box files, I finally found a card that read:

Houston, Van Frederick

Major U.S. Army Infantry- Texas

ASN # 0188982 Awarded Purple Heart


Killed in Action October 24, 1944


Pillar 8, Section 52, Plot # 1 The Officer of the Day arranged an escort to the indicated area and specific white marker.

Overlooking Manila Bay, hundreds of feet above roaring waves, stands an incredibly beautiful, white marble and brass pillar monument to fallen Americans. My grandfather was listed in the first column of Texans who gave their best and last. The escorts gave me room to pray, and I did. I told the Major that my Mom missed him and loved him. I thanked my grandfather for his service to America. I asked Van if he would answer some questions for his grandson. He said: "OK" I asked him, what happened to you? You survived The Bataan Death March! You survived that horrible Camp O'Donnell! I asked why he didn't come home to Mom. I asked Van: " WHY did you do all of this? "

Well, I guess as a Major in the Infantry of The United States Army, he had become a man of few words. All I can remember he told me was: " I did what I had to do! I did my duty! " My questions that could be answered were answered. Having the wonderful society to live in that I do, I finally understood. Yes, Major Van Houston and thousands like him did their duty. They made the world safer for all of us. From Mecca to Manila, and from Jerusalem to Rusk, Texas, we are all safer for what they did. It's so difficult to repay them. It's hard to say why little girls and boys have to grow up without their fathers. I promised Van that I would tell his wife and only daughter exactly where he was. I again, promised I would tell them he did his duty. I took some pictures to bring to Mom and Mom's Mom. I had to leave him there, like many Americans who've left their loved ones on many distant shores. I keep my promise still, and I will tell anyone who'll listen about those who did their duty, those who never came home. I wept and saluted this man I never knew. I will always remember this! Thank you, Major Houston! Thank you to all of those who never came home to their daughters. My new friend Frado and I then went to visit his grandfather's grave, too. We just wanted to say thanks!



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