Ben Blaz: patriot, Guamanian, Chamorro - News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Ben Blaz: patriot, Guamanian, Chamorro

by Sabrina Salas Matanane

Guam - The island is in a state of mourning after the passing of former Guam congressman, retired U.S. Marine Corps brigadier general Ben Blaz.

For several years right here on KUAM, we welcomed him into our homes and hearts as the host of Nihi Ta Bisita and Nihi Ta Hassom programs about Guam's history and culture. Today however the island mourns the loss of former Guam congressman and retired officer.

According to his nephew Michael Borja, Blaz died in Virginia today surrounded by his grandchildren and two sons tom and michael. As we reported he had fallen seriously ill.

Blaz was a survivor of the Japanese occupation. After the war he graduated from the University of Notre Dame and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the USMC in 1951 where he served for nearly 30 years and retired a brigadier general. Blaz holds a master of arts degree from George Washington University in Washington, DC and has an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Guam where he taught for two years after retiring from the Marines. It was in 1984 when Blaz was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives where he served the people of Guam until 1993. Although Blaz has been living off island Guam has always been close to his heart. Blaz is the author of the book Bisita Guam: A Special Place in the Sun, which he dedicated to his family. Over the years he was also on the forefront of Guam's quest for war reparations.

As for funeral arrangements, Borja says that will be announced at a later date, but said Blaz will likely be buried at the Arlington National Cemetery because that was his wish. Former congressman Ben Blaz was 85 years old.

Governor Eddie Calvo said Blaz, "is one of the most important Guamanians of our time.  He showed us that Chamorros can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.  He was the first Guam son to earn the rank of General in the U.S. Marine Corps.  He was our peoples' voice in our nation's Capitol.  His accomplishments show us that bravery and perseverance are all we need to succeed and for that, the people of Guam will forever be grateful."

Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo meanwhile sends her thoughts and prayers to the family of the former congresswoman. She says, "Ben was an outstanding leader of our community having served as the first Chamorro to achieve the rank of brigadier general and was a trailblazer for those in military service."

She calls Blaz a distinguished individual whose wartime experience, knowledge and passion for Chamorro history made him a great role model throughout generations, saying, "Ben truly lived an American life with the heart of a Chamorro wherever he went. Today, our island has lost a hero, a leader and a great friend."

Speaker Judi Won Pat offers her condolences. "His passing is tremendous loss not only to the people of Guam but also for the military - he admirably served our island and the united states marine corps and of course dedicated his life to the people of the United States and the people of Guam. Our condolences go out to him," she said.

Blaz preceded the speaker's father Antonio B. Won Pat as the island's second elected congressman from Guam.

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