Category Archives: America

Some Disappointment


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Jack is now headed to high school come September having graduated from middle school.

The last two weeks have been exciting if not challenging with all the kids’ activities.

In addition to an 8th grade party and his 14th birthday, my youngest son Jack has graduated 8th grade and is heading off to high school come September.  Not only did he receive recognition for perfect attendance, he also made honor roll.

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Jack receiving recognition for perfect attendance.

In addition, my Little Cake Boss Diva has had rehearsals – lots of them – culminating in recitals… Twelve performances in total Friday, Saturday and Father’s Day Sunday.  During the past ten days or so, I must have made at least 25 round trips taking both her and food to and from dance rehearsals and performances.  Believe me, I have enough for TWO “She’s Killing Me” stories but you won’t be bored with them now; I shall refrain.

Insofar as these rehearsals and recitals go, she needs to be dropped off in full makeup and costume an hour before the start of every event.  But as I dropped her off on Saturday and watched her get to the entrance, it was clear that she was no longer my little girl.

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She is pretty much a teenager – a bit too early.

Still scatterbrained, though…Her brain has ceased to function now that school is over except she still wouldn’t let me take her picture.

Well, maybe just this one, taken with my cell phone past 10pm and after tonight’s recital.  It was taken in the light flowing out from the main lobby of the performing arts center.

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Very pixelated and grainy but it’s just for the memories.

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The annual recital was called “Arabian Nights”.

But my girl and boy are not the focus of this post… “Some disappointment” is my focus.

While my Little Cake Boss Diva performed five routines flawlessly Friday night (opening number, lyrical, tap, jazz, ballet), it’s about what the dance school decided to name the recital: Arabian Nights.  That is the source of the disappointment for me.  Of course, I have no say-so in the matter.

Perhaps it’s just the patriotism in me that’s clouding my vision – but it’s there plain as day.  Arabian Nights.  No, I am not racist but I do feel we are at war.  It is abundantly clear our young boys are dying each day in a godforsaken region in which Arabian Nights is based upon yet this implies something else to me.

Let us view it differently.  If a dance school in 1942 were to name their recital “Celebration of Nazi Folklore” or “A Tokyo Love Story”, would there be some boycotting or outrage?  I would think so.  Remember there were death camps and executions of prisoners of war.  Besides, it just wouldn’t make sense.  We were at war… and we are now.

Their opening number was called “Arabian Jewels”.  Other performances were entitled “40 Thieves” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” (talk about stereotyping).

How about a theme like “The Andrew Sisters” with tap dancing to songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”?  Or how about celebrating the much needed morale boosting supplied by the Hollywood Canteen?  Think of all the marvelous smiles these stars like Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Ray Bolger and Ginger Rogers provided our service men and women with their dance at the Hollywood Canteen.  Wouldn’t that would be something that these girls could dance to?

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Shirley Temple providing much needed smiles at the Hollywood Canteen.

Has the foundation upon which our country is based crumbled that far?  At least we recited the Pledge of Allegiance at Jack’s graduation.

Anyways, I was just expressing some disappointment.  I’m sure to many, this may be seen as cultural awareness.  I do loathe sharia law which is intertwined in Arabian Nights. It is totally contra to our Constitution.

I guess the answer lies within which side of the fence you are on.

Italian Sausage Pasta with Spinach


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My Italian Sausage Pasta with spinach.

So a number of months ago, my kids asked of me the unthinkable – again: “Papa, can you make something different?”

Jiminy Crickets.  How can 12 and 13 year old kids want something different, especially when one likes cheese only pizza and the other only pepperoni?  Trying to make something BOTH will like?  Why couldn’t they be satisfied with my culinary masterpieces (LOL) like:

  • Fettucine Alfredo with Prosciutto
  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Spaghetti al Limone
  • Gyoza (potstickers)
  • Ma-bo Dofu (Szechuan Tofu)
  • Ham with Homemade Honey Glaze and Scalloped Potatoes
  • Enchiladas
  • CPK’s Pesto Creme Penne Pasta
  • Croquettes (コロッケ)
  • Chicken Katsu
  • Beef Teriyaki with Homemade Teriyaki Sauce
  • Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs
  • Wilted Spinach Salad
  • Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Chive Pan Sauce
  • Burritos
  • Etc?

Let’s not even address breakfast, like my buttermilk pancakes or waffles from scratch even on school days.  Well, I didn’t milk the cow nor grew the wheat that makes the (King Arthur) flour.  I need to be honest about that.

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So I went to my trusted source.  No, not Cook’s Illustrated.  This time, my oldest daughter Robyn, who’s become quite an accomplished cook herself (She got that from me.).

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My oldest daughter’s prime rib. Yum!

I forgot from which site the recipe came from, but as soon as I said to my kids, “Robyn has a new recipe for pasta,” they said OK!

That’s the magic word, you know.  “Robyn”.  It’s never my saying I’ll make something new.

But this recipe (with a couple of modifications) is ideal for a dutch oven… and it’s easy!

  • 3/4 pound pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound mild or spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can Swanson chicken broth
  • Fresh basil chiffonade (to your liking but I use about two stalks of fresh leaves)
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bag fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese

Cooking:

  1. Heat a skillet (or Dutch oven)
  2. Add olive oil
  3. Brown onion until transparent
  4. Add Italian sausage.  Crumble and cook until pink is almost gone
  5. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  6. Add broth, basil and tomatoes with liquid
  7. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to slightly reduce. Add chopped spinach and fresh basil
  8. Cover skillet and simmer on reduced heat until spinach is tender.

In meantime, aggressively boil your pasta (I like to use Penne or Ziti) until al dente.  Drain.

Add pasta to skillet and mix together. Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

Done!

And you know what?  The kids liked it…because it was Robyn’s recipe.

Cops and Me


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Cops surround me even at breakfast.

Cops love me, I tell ya.  We have a special relationship.

Cops and me have met on official business while on the road.

Three times between 2008 and 2010.

But I have not seen the inside of a police car, paddy wagon or jail.

Don’t you wonder why?  I had three chances to do so in two years.

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Leaving Cars and Coffee, Irvine, CA, 2008.  How is it cops can spot my car from a mile away?

During the first two-plus years after customizing my car, I was lit up by CHP, police and sheriff black and whites.

Just once for each law enforcement branch to be modest.

The first time was on my way back from a Ford Mustang car show in San Diego.  Heading north back to LA and after passing Camp Pendleton – home of the US Marines’ famed 1st Division – I noticed a CHP motorbike merging onto the freeway in my rear view mirror

I am very good at spotting CHP, you know.  Especially since the CHP – for some silly reason – is attracted by bright orange¹ Mustangs without mufflers.

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See… Cops love me. A lot of them. On my way to have Jack Roush of NASCAR fame sign my dashboard.

Traffic was heavy heading away from historic Camp Pendleton being a Saturday evening; the entire 1st Division must have just been issued liberty.  I was pretty much boxed in on the highway.  Going with the flow, you know.  There were SUVs and passenger cars all around me, most with tinted windows which are illegal here in California.  I remember one SUV with limo tint.

But sure enough, before Las Pulgas Road and the border check point, the motorcycle cop lit me up.  Hmmm.  I wonder why?  Could it be because my car is orange with racing stripes?  Nah.

So I pulled over, rolled down my tinted windows, put my left arm and hand out my driver’s side window, with my right hand on the top of the steering wheel.  Common sense given the car.

The CHP officer carefully walked up to my passenger window and peered in.  He walked to the front then came back.  “You were speeding back there, have tinted windows and no front license plate.  Driver’s license, registration and insurance, please.”

Speeding?  No problem.  I wasn’t going to bicker with him about the speeding since we were all going at XX mph.  I told him I need to get into my console to which he nodded his head.  He looked at my driver’s license.  He pulled down his sun glasses.  I could see he was MUCH younger than I.  He then looked up from my license, stared at me, then stared back at my license.  He looked into my back seat area, hoping to see if anyone else was back there like a 16 year old son.  “Is this YOUR car, sir?”

I yelled over the traffic noise, “Yes, sir… and I bet I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been alive.”   He smiled.

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Me doing my Lightning McQueen thing.

He walked back to his bike and I’m sure he checked for wants and warrants.  No big deal.  I would want him to do that on every stop. I want to protect my kids, you know.

He came back and handed me a “fix it” ticket while saying, “I’m letting you off on the speeding but you have 60 days to get these violations fixed.”  I now had to officially get my window tint removed and front license plate installed on my then show-quality car, then have an officer sign it off.

“Ok, sir.  Thank you… but you never answered my question if I’ve been driving longer than you’ve been alive.”

He grinned, patted my passenger door’s window sill and said, “Have a good day, sir,” while smiling and walked back to his bike.²

Gee.  I didn’t get tackled to the ground, handcuffed or guns drawn on me.  I wonder why?  Instead, he just smiled.

And I am glad he didn’t ask me to pop the hood…  That’s a whole different type of fix it ticket under there.  It would have been a gold mine for the CHP money bucket.

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Assembling for a cruise to Blackbird Airpark. Now you gotta ask: If all these supercharged Mustangs were going 85 mph and you were a cop, who would you single out?

Another time was at lunch.  I can’t exactly say for sure but perhaps I was speeding just a teensy-weensy bit.  Anyways, a Fullerton PD black and white lit me up.

Same routine.  Pulled over, rolled down my tinted windows and put my hands where he could see them.  He did say he had seen the car driving around before and that he was going to let me go on the window tint, the missing plate and a VERY loud car…this time.  But I do think he recognized the “Voss Performance” stickers all over my car.  Voss knows a lot of cops around there, thankfully.

The other time, the same routine and results, thankfully.  I think the LA County Sheriff felt sorry this nice car was being driven by a decrepit old man in a higher crime area.
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But each time, I did not make mainstream mis-media.  You know, CNN and the like.

I followed the officer’s orders.  Plain and simple.

Nobody came out to say I was being discriminated against because I got picked out of a dozen cars going the same speed, some with a LOT darker tint than mine.  What if I were of a different race and I went after the cop?  Is it because the cop is a racist?

And please don’t say it was just a traffic stop. It’s the same if a cop approached me on a street corner. I interacted with a cop.

But one thought I do have.  Slavery was abolished more than 150 years ago.  There’s nobody alive today from that time – well, at least not since George Burns passed away.  Yet, they still speak to it in volumes in our children’s US history books.  But don’t you find it curious they pretty much overlook WWII which was only 70 years ago?

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My 13 year old son’s US History textbook.  There are pages and pages about discrimination in our children’s textbooks and that it hasn’t improved much. To me, this becomes one overriding concept taken away from school by our children.
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More focus on discrimination. What are the children learning about our nation’s greatness? Can this be a cause for certain people the world is owed them?  Are they thinking America is BAD?
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There were only about four+ pages on WWII with a lot of side bars. There was no true learning about individual sacrifices as a nation to become victorious but ask the children to instead think about discrimination against minorities.

And if any one “race” has a reason to scream discrimination, it would be my father’s generation about 75 years ago.  People of Japanese descent in the “West Coast Exclusion Zone” had all their citizenship and rights stripped away and worldly possessions taken.  I don’t recall any other “race” en masse having their citizenship taken away by the stroke of a President’s pen and put behind barbed wire.

I do feel one thing.  All this poppy-cock about it being solely the cops that caused the riots in Ferguson, Baltimore and unrest in Philadelphia.  It was WRONG for anyone to have NOT complied with the officer’s orders in the first place.  Simple as that.  Why resist arrest or fight a cop?

If someone doesn’t have drugs, weapons or outstanding warrants on their person, complying would be the end of it… like with me.  The only crime I committed was being old.  Well, I guess the tint, no license plate, no mufflers and supposed speeding, too.

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Hmmm.  Do you think I burned rubber while leaving?  Pretty tempting with 505 hp.

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Why isn’t attention being focused on why these so called race incidents occurred in the first place?  Some jerk did not comply with an officer’s orders.  Plain and simple.

Has NOT complying become accepted as an appropriate behavior for thugs when stopped by law enforcement officers… and then for it to be pretty much overlooked if something happens just because of their race?  That a cop can be assaulted and to say afterwards its part of their job to be a glutton for punishment and not have the right to protect himself/herself?  If they fight a cop, what would they do to YOU?

No, I am not condoning someone dying for whatever reason.  But we have to stop overlooking the perpetrators themselves and then using their upbringing as the excuse for their behavior… and make them – and their parents – be accountable for their own actions.  We need to stop giving them hall passes in every way, shape and form.  In essence, we have to stop making ANY race feel special just because of their race.  I blame the DOJ, too, for not placing any blame on the “victims”.

If we don’t, this spiral will never end.

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Notes:

1.  It is orange.  Not yellow!

2. By the way, there are no more “fix it” tickets here in California.  You are cited for tint, no plates or whatever else with no chance to appeal.  Each type of infraction, I believe, is about $160.

Old Man Jack-ism #9


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My supercharged Grabber Orange Mustang lived outside 24/7 for her first five years. Old Man Jack’s driveway is to the very left; he would on occasion call me over to his garage to chat.

I was out front one morning, enjoying a gorgeous holiday weekend.  While pointing in my general direction, Old Man Jack said to me from across the street, “Koji, she needs to come in at night.”  My car was in between Jack and me.  He loved my car…almost as much as his F4U Corsair.

Why would he tell me to put my Grabber Orange Mustang into the garage?  He knows it’s parked outside 24/7 because the aggravating ex took away my garage without saying a word beforehand.

“Say what, Jack?” asked I…

I was humbled shortly thereafter by this exceptional and aging WWII combat vet who went to war as a young boy.

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Indeed, I had to park my supercharged, car show winning Grabber Orange Mustang at curbside 24/7.  Blistering sun, rain, ashes from wildfires, toxic sea gull poop and dog pee on my chrome wheels, I tell ya.  The sea gull poop was the worst: unless you got if off before the desert-like sun microwaved it, it would leave the vinyl graphics underneath stained.  Crap.

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Sea gull bomb.
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Aftermath of sea gull bomb – the stain.

But I had to park it outside on the street, as I mentioned, as my darned ex decided to secretly take over my man-cave just months before I got it.

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After the divorce and after throwing a lot of the stuff she didn’t take, this is what the garage looked like. The illegally built room took up about 75% of the space. She even had a door, lights and curtains installed. Definitely no room for a car… Well, maybe a Smart car…but that isn’t a car. 🙂

If you thought Pearl Harbor was a sneak attack, the ex’s takeover of my man-cave was a blitzkrieg.  Let’s just say it was a helluva shock to come home from work one day to find an illegal alien well on his way into putting up walls in the garage.  She was building a “massage room”.  Well, in the end, it was used for much more, unfortunately.

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The cleared out space after I paid my AMERICAN citizen buddy to tear it down and haul it away. My car now has a home.  Notice the door and the window with curtains she had installed. It’s going to cost a pretty penny to have them torn out and filled in. Oh… Look at the bottom right corner… Six feet of my driveway is missing. That is another ex story.

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But back to Old Man Jack telling me that “she needs to come in at night”…

“Jack, I can’t put the car in the garage.  You know that,” I said.

“No, not the car, you dumb shit.  The flag!” he said with his boyish trademark grin and with great fondness.

“Huh?  The flag?” I asked.

“Shit, didn’t they teach you anything in school?  You gotta put a light on her if she’s staying out at night,” he said.

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Old Man Jack with his happy face on and me. He would pass away about a year later.

I then realized he had pointed to the flag behind me and not my car.  Duh.  I had put the red, white and blue out for the holidays as always and had simply left it out – and yes, for convenience.  He must have seen it left out the night before.  But then again, he must have been biting his tongue for years as I had left it out before.

As Popeye, the Sailor Man would say, “How embarrassinks.”

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Well, Old Man Jack was right; there has to be a light shining on the flag at night.  And yes, I had learned that flag etiquette as a youngster in school but just plain forgot with time.  Heck, me and this other kid had the honor to take down the flag on a regular basis while in the 6th grade.

Anyways, I had remembered that story with today being Memorial Day.  I had the flag out in reverence to our fallen.  I even caught the tail end of a flight of four WWII T-6 Texans just north of us in a missing man formation.

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It is now dark outside and yes, I brought her in.  Can’t upset Old Man Jack, you know.

But it ate my heart out to see it draped over his casket just about three years later.

I was alone with Old Man Jack during visitation.  It was good as I was able to say good-bye in private... The mortuary didn't invest in good quality Kleenex, though.

Thanks for reading and revere our fallen.

Old Man Jack-ism #8


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After recovering from a flood of memories, Old Man Jack stares at the other girl in his life: the F4U Corsair. Planes of Fame, March 3, 2003. Copyright Koji D. Kanemoto.

“….The son-of-a-bitch had no legs…” said Old Man Jack from his wife’s blue wheelchair.  His arms were making like windmills.  Well, windmills as fast as his 88 year old arms could go.  He had a comical yet strained look on his face, his bushy white eyebrows still prominent.

But you could see the pain behind those eyes…and in his deadened voice.

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Several months have passed since I visited with Old Man Jack at his grave.  With Memorial Day around the corner, May 17th was a beautiful day to visit him.  A recent rainstorm had just passed and the blue skies were painted with thin, wispy clouds.

I could see no one had stopped by since my last visit; at least no one that left flowers for his wife Carol and him.  The hole for flowers was covered up and grass had crept up onto his gravestone.

I had brought along something for Jack this time; something I thought he would enjoy.  So after cleaning up his resting place, it was placed atop his gravestone – his beloved F4U Corsair:

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He loved the F4U Corsair. He reflected on seeing the entire patrol return to base at wave top, do a victory roll then peel off with a tear in his eyes.

I’m hoping he was beaming.  He couldn’t possibly be happier, being with the two most beautiful ladies in his life.

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But back to his story.

A few months before he was taken away from his home, we had been sitting in his cluttered garage, talking about this and that; I just can’t recall what.  But something in our talk triggered an ugly war flashback from his tormented and mightily buried subconscious.  By that day in 2011, I could tell when he was enduring one, having sat in his garage with him for ten years.

He began as he did before.  He would suddenly stop then gaze down at his hands for a couple of seconds.  His left ring finger would begin to rhythmically pick under his right thumbnail.  His white, bushy eyebrows now made thin with time would partly obscure his eyes from me when he lowered his head.

While I am unable to recall his exact words, he slowly allowed an ugly event to surface:

Old Man Jack began, “We were ordered to go on a patrol.  We were issued rifles and hoped to God we wouldn’t come across any Japs,” he said in a remorseful way.¹  “Then, we came to these rice paddies… We could see hills around us… but that also meant the Japs could see us.”²

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Perhaps it was this rice paddy in Okinawa. Archival image.
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…Or this rice paddy. US Army photo.

“We just followed the guy in front of us like cattle,” he said.  “We were making it through the rice paddies when a couple of shells came in.  Man, I hit the ground real quick.

Then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose.  Rounds were coming in like crazy all around me.  They had this area zeroed in real good.”

He continued.  “I ain’t ashamed to say it.  I was scared real bad.  Then we all started to scram.  I got up and started to run.  I dumped my rifle and ran like crazy.”   While in that blue wheelchair that belonged to his beloved wife Carol, Old Man Jack made like he was running, much like Popeye in this clip:

He then took his gaze away from his hands.  “Then I saw this guy flying through the air with his arms making like he was still running… but the son-of-a-bitch had no legs!”  He pointed his finger and made an arc like a rainbow, then swung his arms like a windmill.  Apparently, an enemy round had hit his comrade, severing his upper torso from his legs then throwing him into the air.  Although the comrade met a violent end, Old Man Jack was describing how he saw his arms flailing.

He stopped.  His eyes returned to his hands.  I still cannot imagine the torment he was enduring, even after 70 years.

I never will.  I just hope he didn’t take it to his grave with him.

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While Old Man Jack was fortunate to have survived combat unlike my Uncle Suetaro or Sgt. Bill Genaust, it was but a physical survival.

Combat tormented him forever.

Let us remember this Memorial Day our fellow Americans who perished so young for the sake of their families and friends, no matter which conflict… and also firmly support those in uniform as I write.  They, too, are being forgotten by many, even as they fight – and die – for us in godforsaken faraway places.

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My friend’s first husband, Sgt. Robert W. Harsock, US Army, Viet Nam, posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor. National Medal of Honor Memorial, Riverside National Cemetery. Copyright Koji D. Kanemoto

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NOTES:

1. I would like to remind my readers that Old Man Jack had no hatred to me or my family when he uttered the word “Jap”.  He is digressing to a most vile period in his life in which he could be killed the very next moment.  If you are offended, it is suggested you participate in an all-out war; perhaps you will understand why.

2. At his funeral, the minister read off the islands he fought on.  Based solely on his description of the large rice paddy and hills combined with what the minister said, I firmly believe this was Okinawa 1945.  Oddly, while Old Man Jack mentioned Guadalcanal, Rabaul, Bougainville and Green Island, he never mentioned Okinawa.