COMMENTARY: The power of honor, courage and commitment

by HA (FMF) Paul Aberion
3D DEN BN Headquarters

The United States Navy honors and embodies the core values of honor courage and commitment. For the active duty Marines and sailors who are stationed in Japan, I feel the importance of illustrating how Japanese culture exemplifies those core values in the way the locals of Okinawa are respectful and kind-hearted to military personnel.

The military stresses how when on duty, to never leave the post until properly relieved. When I became a greenside corpsman, the Marines taught us the phrase, "kill," meaning to give it your all and to leave nothing on the deck unless it was your passion and glory for the mission.

There was a certain Japanese soldier that embodied these themes during World War II. However, history seems to focus on the outcome and does not tribute a man that I feel sacrificed his life for his country and exudes the Japanese culture with his honor and commitment to the order bestowed upon him.

Hiroo Onoda was a youthful 22 years old when he was tasked to deploy to Luhang Island in the Philippines in December 1944. This lieutenant would never foresee the adversities and resiliency needed for his unit to persevere through challenging combat operations as Japan continued to forward deploy. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 15, 1945, Japan would ultimately surrender and conclude the matters of World War II. However, Lt. Onoda acclimated himself to respecting the duty ordered of him by his commanding officer to disorder and incapacitate enemy efforts as the leader of an intelligence operations unit. Onoda tasked his three remaining soldiers to retreat to ground force combat and defend as guerilla fighters in enemy forests and hill terrains.

Not to side track, but many military personnel lose motivation or complain when he or she has to sit through a 24-hour or longer duty. Compared to what Onoda had to endure, those duties were cupcakes compared to the isolation and group nutrition survival on minimal intake food options. Onoda’s group would survive on bananas, coconut milk and stolen cattle while engaging in sporadic shootouts with the local police.

The local police would drop air-like components to signal to Onoda that the war was over. However, this officer embodied a level of fortitude and obedience to order that exemplified honor, courage and commitment in that he was unwilling to surrender his mind, body and soul to surrendering unless he heard it from his commanding officer’s mouth.

However, that would pose as a challenge since Onoda maintained his combat post for 29 more years. One of his soldiers eventually surrendered in 1950 out of exhaustion, the other soldier was killed by a search party in 1954 and his commanding officer became a librarian to transition to a more peaceful life after the war. It was not until the late 70’s when the Japanese forces persuaded Onoda’s former CO to travel back to the battle site and officially verbalize to him that he must surrender.

Onoda would eventually surrender to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. He returned to Japan and was greeted as a hero, but indicated his desire to continue his leadership in Brazil and become a cattle rancher. After a decade, he came back to Japan and established a group of schools to teach wilderness survival and resiliency to children. Ultimately, my purpose was to demonstrate that anyone can conquer whatever they set his or her mind to. Character is not from DNA, it is from core values that can will a service member to be brave and serve honorably.

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