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Manenggon memorial service in Yona

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by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - As Guam prepares once again to appear before a congressional panel for war reparations, the annual Manenggon Memorial was held at the site of the World War II concentration camp. Every year, those who are still alive today come back to Manenggon to participate in a wreath laying and memorial service

In the tranquil valley tucked away in the village of Yona, thousands of Chamorros were forced to march there by Japanese enemy forces during WWII. "Her story, my story, their story needs to be told," said former first lady of Guam Geri Gutierrez. It's a tale that 67 years ago, she could only tell with the help of other survivors and relatives. "I have no memory whatsoever of the time I spent here," she said.

She was just 15 months old when she arrived to the Manenggon concentration camp. "For just as I have no memory of being interned here, I also have no memory of my mother," she said.

Gutierrez was in her mother's arms as she took her last breath, her mother was just 27 years old when she died at the hands of Japanese soldiers. She fought back the tears as she shared the stories passed on to her. "I have been told many times throughout my life. About this beautiful strong willed woman named Hanna Chance Torres, who not only gave me life, who protected my life until the end of hers, shielding my infant body from the blows of a bayonet while her own body bore each strike," she said.

"Throughout my life in spite of the pain and the longing to know what it must have been liked to be embraced by mother to know her scent to know her touch the one thing that I have clung to the one thing that cannot be taken from me is the comforting thought that she really did exist that I exist because of her."

There are so many other stories of the atrocities that occurred in Guam during World War II, only this time one can only hope that as a hearing on H.R. 44 or the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act gets underway this week, congressional leaders will actually listen. Several attempts at war reparations have repeatedly failed.

"It needs to be recounted it needs to be recorded it needs to be passed on," Gutierrez said.

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