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By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 16) – With a handful of student activists staging a peaceful rally protesting what they called "militarization" of the island, the Guam Visitors Bureau and the Andersen Air Force yesterday unveiled a monument that pays tribute to the "Last Mission" of World War II launched from Northwest Field exactly 60 years ago yesterday.

"Not only does this event bring closure to the tragic episode of World War II, but also honors those who fought for our freedom," said GVB board member Carl Petersen, who heads the bureau’s armed forces committee.

The monument, designed and donated by Rocky Mountain Precast, is built on Northwest Field across the old airfield in Dededo.

"We are pleased to share this tribute with our friends and neighbors in the community," said Base Commander Col. Michael Boera.

A few meters away from the event site, University of Guam students held a peaceful rally lambasting GVB and the business sector for promoting military tourism and drumming up Washington’s support for bases expansion on the island.

"Most of our tourists are Japanese. How do you think they feel when we keep reminding them of what they did during the war? Our leaders are not promoting peace; they are glorifying war," said Dominic Perez, one of the protesters.

"Why is the government spending more money honoring the military, but not honoring our own local people?" Perez asked.

The monument has been dedicated to the 143 members of the 315th Bomb Wing who flew the Last Mission six days after Nagasaki was struck by the second atomic bomb.

"Who wants to remember the 143 bombers? We are becoming aliens in our own island," Nicole Santos said, holding a placard that reads: "To Whom Does This Land Belong?"

Perez also lamented what he described as the "militarization" of Guam’s highways.

He was referring to the Legislature’s renaming of roads after branches of the military. Route I has been renamed Marine Corps Drive, Route 10 is Vietnam Veterans Highway, and Route 16, Army Drive.

Another pending bill seeks to rename Route 8 as "Purple Heart Memorial Highway" to honor all recipients of the military order of the Purple Heart who have been wounded or killed in action.

"Why can’t we promote our identity? The whole island is turning into a military base," Perez said.

Petersen, meanwhile, paid tribute to Ken Jones, a local businessman who was one of the Seabees who built the old airfield.

"Mr. Jones stayed on Guam after the end of the war and while he has been known as a visionary, in his heart, he is still a Seabee," Petersen said.

Jones and his family own several business establishments on Guam and Saipan, including Triple J Motors and Triple J Enterprise. The Jones family used to own the Hagatna Shopping Center.

Yesterday’s ceremony was also dedicated to pilot Jim Smith, "the key person in the Last Mission" that took out 67 percent of Japan’s remaining oil refining capability and by a twist of fate, foiled a military revolt whose intent was to kidnap the Emperor and keep the war going.

"The succinct significance of this mission is that the Last Mission is to Guam what Pearl Harbor is to Hawaii. Pearl was the alpha to the war and we are the Omega. It is truly profound," Petersen said.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

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