The grand marshal's story: Buck Cruz
Guam - As the island commemorates its 69th anniversary of the liberation of Guam, we feature a survivor of the Japanese occupation of Guam and this year's parade grand marshal.
Anyone that knows Buck Cruz knows he's a proud American, proud Chamorro and a devoted public servant. "After serving 24 years in the Marine Corps I retired and my people in Merizo wanted me, they were asking me to come home and be elected their mayor," he said.
He's lived in Merizo almost all his life. He's seen good times and has definitely seen bad times. He said, "I was fourteen years old."
At such a young age he witnessed the Japanese imperial forces begin their takeover of Guam during World War II. "I saw the Japanese when they came into Guam and I also witnessed their departure from the island," he said.
The most horrible memory - his father was among the 30 most influential men and women of Merizo that were gathered by the Japanese and taken to the caves at Tinta and Faha and executed. "The Japanese didn't want this kinds of people to be around when the U.S. made their landing, their recapture of Guam because they were afraid that they would tattle-tell," he said.
Like everyone else during the occupation, for 3 years and seven months they were forced to work in the fields, growing rice and raising livestock, some forced to transport supplies and equipment for the Japanese, others forced to march to Manenngon, others raped and beheaded, it was hell on earth for thousands of Chamorros.
But it was a day after Cruz's 17th birthday, July 21st, 1944 that all their sorrow, fear, pain and suffering would finally turn to joy. "We were so happy. They made their landing in Agat. And some came in Asan and then after they made their landing they came to Merizo and Umatac and we met them then they took us to Agat and were treated there. It was so good," he recalled.
Former Merizo mayor Buck Cruz - this year's liberation grand marshal.