I have been wanting to write about a remarkable life, but as with all things, it often gets shuffled off the table or put off. Recently the oldest survivor of the Bataan Death March died (this was in August of this year). That is a somber statement, but it is true. So what is so remarkable or memorable about this? Another old soldier has been laid down to rest. What I discovered buried here, was a life worth living and I thought it worth sharing.
During his three years in a Japanese POW camp and on the infamous Bataan Death March that got him there, Albert Brown suffered a broken back and a broken neck, he was also wounded with a bayonet, and had experienced or suffered thru several tropical jungle diseases. At the end of the war he was freed and sent to a Vet hospital where after extensive examinations they told him “that he would be lucky if he even made it to fifty” because of the damage done to his body at the hands of his captors. He was at that time, 40 years of age. He was advised to see as much of life as he could, because his days were numbered.
But Brown, the oldest Bataan survivor made it to 105 before he died.
His secret? He had this incredible spirit to live and overcome, positive thinking or whatever you call it, he survived and he did it during what were termed insurmountable odds. His story, a testament to the human spirit is worth repeating. Each and every day in this country, we have wounded warriors coming home, some or most, do not fare as well as Mr Brown did.
Here is a brief history for you.
He was shipped off to the Philippines just a short three months before Japan invaded the country. As most of you know, outnumbered and outgunned, the American and Filipino forces pulled back in the mountainous areas of the island near Manila. There they fought for some four months but with their ranks decimated by hunger, disease, they finally surrendered.
This is when the nightmare begins.
Some 76,000 allied captives were forced to march seventy miles to an interment camp. This took a little over six days, in 100 degree humid weather. During this forced march they were denied food, water, and those who stumbled and fell were executed on the spot by the Japanese. They were savagely beaten with rifle butts and often tortured beyond comprehension before they died.
Sword wielding captors beheaded those unfortunate who were not strong enough and more than 10,000 men died on this march. Brown said that he survived during this period simply by sheer will. During his internment he ate three ping-pong sized balls of rice daily and was routinely beaten. By the end of the war, the six foot Brown had withered to just 90 pounds and was nearly blind.
But thru it all, Brown soldiered on.
He spent over two years recuperating in a Denver hospital and then he moved to California where he set up a business renting out properties to Hollywood stars. With resilience and sheer will, he survived and came out the other side to emerge on top. A man who was reported to only make it to 50 managed to do twice that. When he died, he had 12 grandchildren and was a positive role model not only for his community but his family.
We have a video for you on this day, the end of another week. You more than likely won’t understand a word of it. It is from Korea and it has English sub-titles, you have to read most of it. Rest assured it is worth the watch and it will resonate with your soul.
If Mr. Albert Brown were here to watch it I am pretty sure he would tell us “that even if your world is full of garbage, go on and sing anyway.” It is in that spirit that we share this with you.
See y’all on Monday …