JK: Jon Kirwan
Please tell me about the experience of collective resonance that you
had. Describe it in whatever way takes me into it with you.
JK: Well, this
would have been in the Philippines, on the island of Luzon in 1991.
Started in June, actually it goes from June to September. It was in
the Air Force, I used to work in Town Patrol - off base. Mount Pinatubo
had erupted. Actually the story starts about a week prior to that because
we knew that Mount Pinatubo was going to erupt and they evacuated the
base. About 30,000 people were evacuated from the Philippines through
Subic Bay and on to Guam.
When they do this evacuation it
pretty much lasts for about a day and a half. It was a convoy just going
to Subic Bay, and basically for about a day and half I stood along a
highway and watched vehicles go by. It was really just security because
at that time they had the New Peoples Army in the Philippines, so they
were worried that because of the Abu Sayaf we were in danger, making
such a mass migration. There’d already been prior a lot of shootings.
I remember the stress started because
the whole resonance was built around a lot of stress on this group of
people, the men in my unit. We’re pretty much individual, I mean
at this point we’re standing there by ourselves, each an individual.
We were at Clark Air Base. They
had one of those volcanologists, or whatever the heck they’re
called, but those idiots were out there telling us every six hours,
“Hey, it’s gonna erupt.” And we used to have a call
sign which basically meant “Hey, we gotta get off the base and
go to a certain pre-designated location.” This was really stressing
us out because you’re gonna need to sleep for longer than six
hours and we worked for thirteen, fourteen hours a day for two or three
days straight, and now we’re playing this game!
I remember they took us to the
first location they had. We’re really starting to get tired by
this point. We’d all zoom out there. It wasn’t that far
from the volcano, and even after the volcano went off and we went back
to it, the place where we were supposed to be was just buried!
RAL: You mean,
you would have died?
JK: Oh, most certainly,
especially if we were in the tents because the way the ash came down,
it would have come down right on top of us.
RAL: Why were
JK: They thought
it would be safe. But we never did go there, actually, in the end. I
guess there was enough people that “a little common sense prevailed”
in that case. Because that’s the military structure. But we, in
the end, actually went to a university. It was about ten miles away.
So one night we actually do an
evacuation and we go to that university and the volcano goes off. It
was probably early evening because I remember now, when the volcano
went off I was standing looking at it, and there’s a plume that
just covers the whole sky. And I had my camera. I got a picture of it.
There were these cars just coming at me, and I stood in the middle of
the road and just took the picture. Of course then I got out of there!
There were a lot of earthquakes.
Small, football size little rocks were coming from the sky. Then softball
size rocks were coming from the sky. And they’re hitting us. I
remember I was hit by some fairly big ones, but not a big one. I think
that a big one would’ve killed you. So we go out to this university.
Now this was a horrible experience because everybody that was left behind
was basically the support team that could survive by itself. It was
really just the military police community, some services to feed us,
medical stuff, and I imagine there were probably three thousand people.
The university is small, like a hotel-size thing, and of course we’re
shoved in there and we’re laying side by side. And I remember
the first place we went to. We were actually underneath a stadium –
like a football stadium, I imagine. I don’t know what type but
I know it was a stadium. Now we’re having earthquakes and the
place is shaking. And we thought it was going to fall down on us.
And now’s the time when people
were starting to get pissed…angry. You know, “Hold it, I
could die here. So much for God and country. Find me a new location!”
And, in fact, they did find us a new location.
RAL: Were you
angry at the military?
RAL: For putting
you in danger?
JK: Yeah, for
putting us in danger. But it’s becoming harder to deal with each
other. We’re having a hard time dealing with each other right
about now, too. Remember, now it’s about a week into the fun.
So called fun… I’m joking.
We are there for about three or
four days, and I remember it’s about three or four days because
first off we didn’t have any running water. We had some bottled
water which was rationed, and we had what was called the water buffalo
which was a military water tank that they haul behind trucks. We had
a few of those. Because now the other water, the stream water or whatever,
has already been contaminated by the ash which has sulfur in it, and
they recommend that we don’t drink that. Anyway, why I remember
it was three or for days is that they wanted us to shave with a razor.
With a razor without water! And they were on us because we didn’t
look military. So now we’re really becoming frustrated, “I’m
sorry, this suffering’s not enough, I haven’t had a bath
in three or four days”, you know what I mean? “Haven’t
really been brushing my teeth because we don’t have that much
water. And you want me to dry shave with a three or four day beard!”
Only a man can appreciate that one!
But they ordered us to do it. And
they also came out and checked to make sure that we did it. So, they
followed up. I remember, also, they were so chaotic because everybody
had some serious weapons – fifty caliber and M-60 machine guns.
And these things were laying everywhere unguarded. I had collected,
probably, five or six nine-millimeter handguns, a handful of shotguns,
just finding them sporadically throughout this place because people
didn’t care anymore. But the thing is, now we’re in greater
risk because we still have the risk of the NPA and the Abu Sayaf. And
we’re still pulling guard on ourselves, putting a perimeter around
the college to control entry into the area, which causes more stress
because you get more people out there. And we’re worried that
the NPA and the Abu Sayaf would assault us. What a perfect time!
So we left and went back to Clark
Air Base. We went back to the dormitory where we stayed. And when we
got to the dormitories, water wasn’t running and they told people…I
know this sounds bizarre…we told people, “Don’t use
the toilets because the water’s not running.” And you know
what, if that goes for three or four days – and the Philippines
is hot – you know it would be pretty nasty. Do you think people
would listen? No. They used the toilets, the dormitory was stinking.
They unlocked all the doors, you see, because they wanted us to stay
in one or two dormitories and not spread out because you had to imagine,
there’s a lot of dormitories. They wanted us in one location.
But the people, in fact, actually originally came from many dormitories.
So people would come and lay in
your bed with all this ash and everything, so when I finally got back
to my room, the thing’s just full of mud. My bed’s full
of mud. People just laid there and slept, and used your stuff and everything.
That was frustrating because now our space was starting to be violated!
And I tell you all this because you gotta imagine why we’re getting
so bugged out.
So back to work we go. Guarding
Clark Air Base because now we have the problem. The Philippine community,
or parts of it, actually, to be fair, parts of the Philippine community
would steal stuff from the base. And now they’re all worried about
stealing this stuff and they had other folks packing up houses –
you know, people’s personal belongings and trying to send them
to them, so the government wouldn’t have to reimburse them. We’re
guarding the base while this stuff was being packed. There was another
group of folks packing from the transportation community. They do that
for the Air Force. They packed it, we guarded the base.
There was a mix of people packing.
There was active duty military and Filipinos. So we’re actually
guarding them, we’re guarding the base so they could get the stuff
to them. And a lot of stuff in the housing areas was all junked out
because the mud came through and it was about two or three feet deep
and it went right into the houses. It pushed, sometimes, couches all
the way to ceiling and, you know, it was just bizarre. I think that
the only thing we valued was that people would get some of their personal
belongings, pictures of their families, stuff like that back. Most of
us did not care if you got your TV.
I did not work guarding stuff on
base. I actually worked Town Patrol, as I said, because I was out there
on the road. So now I’m guarding the base and houses off base.
A lot of the military community lived off base. So we’re driving
around watching these houses off base, which was really ridiculous because
they were getting robbed, literally, with caravans. I’m talking
about trucks up behind trucks. You would have thought it was migration.
And we were not gonna “dink” with them. We were not gonna
mess with them because it was just too much. We did, periodically. Let’s
say out of twenty trucks we maybe stopped one, collected the material.
Then we would take it to this big bunker and store it. It was actually
a munitions bunker but we didn’t know whose it was so we were
just getting more frustrated, thinking, “Why are we doing this?”
Well now we had the problem of
guarding the bunker! Things are getting thicker as we go! Because now
we’re putting stuff in the bunker! Which we don’t know whose
it is and people really didn’t care. Ash is falling the whole
time. When a volcano goes eighty to a hundred thousand feet in the air
it falls for a couple of weeks. And so you’re almost looking at
times like night throughout. And when it was really night, we’re
talking about not being able to see but four feet in front of you. So
about that time we’d about had it. We’re working probably
thirteen, fourteen hours a day now. Which leads to the next story.
About the second week. I had to
go guard a shop – it was like a Seven Eleven. Clark Air Base is
huge. We’re talking from the main base to one of the gates is
probably five miles. Out at the edge of the main gate, not within it,
there’s a shop, like a Seven Eleven. It’s really for the
people who live off base; they could drive on base real quick, get their
little goodies and go back home. I got posted to the shop. Well, I had
no batteries for my flashlight. I remember going to post that night
and I told my supervisor, I said, “I got no batteries for my flashlight.
I can’t see!” And I couldn’t buy batteries because
there’s nowhere to buy them. The “shopette” then really
wasn’t open, we were just guarding it…I guess I could break
the windows and steal batteries, but I’m guarding it, so some
of the Filipino community won’t go in there and steal stuff.
And the next thing that happened
is they gave me a radio – like a walkie-talkie radio – but
we’re using these radios so much the batteries are going dead.
So I got one with a dead battery. So basically I got a dead battery
on my radio and no flashlight. And I told my boss that and he said,
“Go. I’m not asking you. Go.” And I remember my words
to him – and it was not exactly, but something like – “Well
if the Filipinos pull up to rob this place, I’m gonna help them
load the truck!” Because I’m not gonna challenge them out
here with no flashlight and no radio! Because what people don’t
understand is they were killing Americans in the Philippines at that
time. So if I saw somebody come, I was gonna go in the other direction…I’m
by myself! And I’m talking about nobody could ever hear me or
see me, or, like I said, you can’t see three feet in front of
you at night. They couldn’t find me. If I fell to the ground—and
the ashes were falling, it blanketed maybe a half hour—they wouldn’t
be able to find me.
RAL: So it was
fear, a little bit, there too?
JK: Yeah, fear
is setting in.
Well I went out. I didn’t
actually go by the shop, I just went out and hid. There was a bus stop
there that had been crushed, but I sat on the crushed bus stop…just
sat there all night long. I didn’t do anything. I don’t
know what happened to the shop. I really didn’t care.
The next day we’re all going
to work and I’d about had it. And I’m not alone, there’s
a lot of other folks – there’s thirty people on our flight,
or shift, thirty of us on a shift that worked Town Patrol. And there’s
a lot of rebelling, a lot of smart-mouth comments. I remember they were
pretty derogatory. And I remember our shift supervisor saying, “Well,
if anybody doesn’t like it, come up front.” His point was,
come up and we’ll punch it out right now. I took off my “nine-mil”
and handed it to the person next to me, and I walked up front and I
said, “Okay”. I don’t think he expected that. Nothing
But this is the time, when you
were asking about this resonance, now’s when it’s coming
together because this is the time when we were all going at each other.
See, before, I was just frustrated with myself, frustrated with the
system, this or that. But now we’re going at each other. Over
the next couple of days there actually were fights. When we’d
go to work, there were fights. When we’d get off work, there were
fights. And I’m not talking about a push and a shove and somebody
pulling them away. I’m talking about people really knocking each
other pretty good, kicking them when they’re down. For example,
one guy tried to turn in his weapon, but it was dirty (and they would
not let him) and he was tired. We have kind of an issue window. There’s
people inside a secure area, and this guy’s trying to turn it
(the weapon) back in the morning because we can’t take them with
us. And they wouldn’t take it because it was dirty; and I remember
the guy who was trying to turn it in. He stepped back and he threw his
nine-mil through the window as hard as he could. And it hit the other
guy right smack between the eyes. I know it hurt. Just to give you an
RAL: So, aggression.
JK: Oh, it’s
RAL: So at this
point you’re tired and you’re dirty and you’re angry
and frustrated because nobody’s helping you out there, right?
RAL: So really
it’s like your systems are breaking down, your individual coping
systems. Your immune system?
JK: Yeah. I was
getting sick. And over the next week it’s getting worse. We’re
really not liking each other. We would go to work for fourteen hours
and wouldn’t even talk to each other because we couldn’t
deal with it. I remember one time when this other guy was driving, a
dog runs in front of us. And the guy driving the jeep ran the dog over
on purpose…because it got in his way and he just got angry and
ran the dog over. I laugh now; I laugh because it was so bizarre. And
a few days later I shot a dog! It was barking at me and I pretended
I was afraid, but I was getting bugged too. I did feel really bad about
it, which also caused me more stress because I did something that I
could never tell anybody.
RAL: But you weren’t
JK: No. And this
is what’s going on in our head. We just can’t take it. And
we weren’t talking to each other for, I don’t know, it could’ve
been two weeks, it could’ve been a month, I don’t remember.
And then, at some point, we started
laughing about some things. I think things get so bad that they become
funny. And when we were able to laugh and stuff, when we were able to
make jokes, then what happened is that everything that went wrong, we
made a joke about it. And the more we did that, I think that’s
when we really started to resonate, to come together. And the more we
did that – as far as coming together – the more we really
started to appreciate each other.
There came a point where if one
of us had to do something that was crazy, the other ones would help
us do that. See, before that if you had to do something that was crazy,
you were on your own. We still got posted in goofy places, we still
had to guard things, but now we would come visit each other and we’d
sit out there, we’d say “hey, screw it.” We’d
go out there and sit, and one of us would sleep and the other would
watch. You know we started doing that kind of stuff.
We’d started making sure
that, say, if somebody was somewhere, that we’d go see if you
got what you need, you got water, or something like that. The protection
society. The leadership never changed. The leadership was always being
dogmatic about, “This is what the Air Force wants us to do and
we’re gonna do it.” But we changed. And leadership, to tell
you the truth, for the next three months…I don’t even remember
leadership! They disappeared from my memory!
RAL: What do you
JK: I just remember…the
RAL: The group?
JK: Yes! Sometimes
we’d go to work and let’s say we’re tired, we’d
all go hide in one of the back rooms. There were some small offices.
Probably ten, twelve people would go in there, bar the door shut, and
we’d go to sleep. And in this case we were all men – because
the Town Patrol didn’t have any women on it and they wouldn’t
allow them – and, literally, I would be laying with my head on
somebody’s arm or something like that…which, there’s
no way…you couldn’t get twelve men to lay in a room and
lay on each other’s arms. But we would do that because we’d
just got to the point where we realized that “Hey, you know what,
if I don’t do this, I’m screwed.” The alternative
is to keep suffering. So we started to do that. And sometimes we wanted
to play cards or play games or just sit there and talk and we’d
lean against each others’ backs for literally hours, out in the
dark because to tell you the truth, we were not gonna guard those homes,
even though they told us to, so we’d go out and hide. And we’d
just go out there and sometimes we’d just lean against each other
and not talk. Sometimes we’d just talk all night. Talk about philosophy,
life, God… I don’t know. And we’re talking about real,
genuine, deep discussions. And, accepting each other’s points
even when we disagreed!
I remember one time there was a
friend of mine, he’s Black…African-American, whatever. We’d
been doing this for quite a long time, and he came out and said, “You
know, Jon, you’ve been my friend for a long time,”- and
his nickname was Robin – and he said, “What can you tell
me about African-American history?” And I said, “Robin,
nothing.” And he said, “That’s bullshit. Don’t
pretend to be my friend when you don’t know anything about my
But the thing is, this is the time
when we’re really connecting. And instead of saying, “Oh,
c’mon that’s dumb.” Or, “Our friendship’s
not based on that,” I understood what he meant.
RAL: You understood
him on a deeper level.
JK: Yes. He was
saying to me “Jon, we’re friends and how come you haven’t
done this? How can you profess to be my friend and care about me as
much as you do but you don’t know exactly what some of my feelings
are”? And, interestingly enough, I could tell you so much about
African-American history today that it blows people away. See, when
Robin said that to me, even though I haven’t talked to him since
I left the Philippines in 1991, it resonated with me to where I could
now tell you about Malcolm X, Dr. King, Booker T. Washington, Frederick
RAL: What it feels
like to me is you heard the deeper resonance, you heard the deeper levels
of what he was saying to you. It wasn’t just the words anymore.
JK: I felt hurt
that I had hurt him and I never realized that I had done that. If that
hadn’t happened - going through that journey - he would never
have said that and if he had said that earlier it would have never sunk
in because we wouldn’t have connected that way.
RAL: Yes. What
shifted, Jon? You said that you went from anger and frustration to joking
JK: Well, actually,
it goes from anger to frustration to silence. To laughter to joking.
RAL: What do you
JK: I don’t
know if you’re familiar with alcohol and drug treatment. An addict
will make a turnaround when they hit the very bottom. And the question
they ask is, “Have you hit the bottom yet?” Because when
you hit the bottom, that’s when you’re ready. And until
they hit the bottom, whatever their bottom is, they’re not ready.
And I think that’s what happened to us. We had to wait to hit
the bottom. I mean, come on, I shot somebody’s pet, somebody else
ran over a dog, we’re fighting in line, we’re throwing weapons
at each other! I mean, with intent to do harm, not, like, here, take
it. It was with intent to really hurt each other. I think we hit the
bottom of humanity, as low as you can go, and I think that’s what
happened. And I think once we hit the bottom, like I said, that silence.
I don’t know if that was two weeks or a month. It was just surreal.
We really didn’t talk to each other.
RAL: It felt surreal
to you? I’m curious to know how that felt to you, when you shifted
into the mode of almost needing each other. I mean it’s like a
bond. I’m feeling a bond, an unbelievably deep bond. It’s
so strong that it’s physical, I mean physical in the sense that
you wanted to be near one another and you wanted to be in the same room.
Tell me, if you remember, how did it feel to you?
JK: I can’t
remember. I don’t think my energy ever came back. Up until the
point I left in September. Even after we bonded, my energy never came
back. I was still mentally, emotionally, physically exhausted. I couldn’t
get out of there fast enough. I couldn’t get out of there fast
RAL: Was there
emotion involved? I mean I know you were laughing, that’s an emotion.
Did you also cry together?
JK: No. We went
from anger then probably to the silence. If I had to give it one emotion
I’d say depression too (long pause). I’ve got to be careful
because you might misunderstand the laughing. Sometimes laughter’s
displaced. I think we were laughing because we realized that it wasn’t
each other that we needed to be upset with. And we also realized it
was each other we needed. We needed people! We were three or four months
along and we’d really been by ourselves in a horrible situation.
We laughed a lot. (Long pause). But it still wasn’t fun. And we
were still bonded. I think the thing is, what I said earlier, we were
depressed. I think we were still depressed but now its collective.
That’s the best way I can put it. Collective anger. We were sharing
RAL: But you didn’t
even remember leadership at that point so what were you angry at?
JK: We didn’t
want to be there. We didn’t want to be doing that stuff and we
could not see a purpose in it. So, we felt like we were all suffering
and we thought, “Why are we doing this?”
RAL: So it didn’t
feel any better when you were together? I mean, physically, it didn’t
JK: Well that’s
not fair, either. I don’t know how to put it. It did feel better.
It’s kind of like a kid getting hurt and sitting on their mom’s
lap. I mean, the hurt’s still there but …
Is that a word, comfort?
JK: Comfort? Yeah.
We had comfort in each other but we were still miserable. It’s
just I believe that maybe we were less miserable. I believe that has
to be fair. I mean we had to be less miserable because we had comfort
in each other.
RAL: Really, you
hit the bottom, so it had to be less.
JK: And in that
misery, that’s when with that comfort, we could laugh. We just
laughed about everything. It was really genuinely funny! “You
want me to guard a building with no radio, no flashlight, in the dark?”
Think about it. It was just genuinely funny and we were really genuinely
laughing. We were also genuinely sad. I guess you can have two feelings
at one time. We were generally miserable and unhappy people and in that
we also had comfort in each other. And I think that’s what worked.
That’s what resonated, the comfort that we took in each other
even though we were miserable.
RAL: And so, other
than Robin, same with other people? Through those conversations with
other people, did you get to know them better?
JK: Yes. And here’s
the thing. You approached me earlier today and you asked me about that
and I started thinking about it, and the thing is, I can only remember
Robin’s name! And I knew that we were gonna get to this point
in the story and I thought, “Why in the world can I not remember
anybody else’s name?” I think I don’t want to.
I don’t even want to. I mean that was six months of my life that
was so bizarre, and I would bet, and I’m not sure, that was a
turning point for everybody. Like I told you, I studied African American
history, but my perception of the American government, the ideologies,
the military had totally switched. What it meant to be a leader of anybody,
whether in the military or whatever, it switched. And probably it led
to where I am today because at that time, all I had was my Associate’s
degree and I was probably content, but when I came back I started working
on my Bachelors degree, then my Masters, and I’m here now working
on my Ph.D.: focusing on social programs.
RAL: So actually
it was a turning point in your life?
JK: Yeah. Mine
and, I’m not sure but I really would believe, everybody that experienced
that, that genuinely took it in. It was a turning point in all their
RAL: So you didn’t
forget them, you just forgot their names.
JK: Oh no, I can
see all their faces. I just cannot remember their names.
RAL: So was it
about leaving that part behind so that you could shift and start a new
life? I mean it seems you thought differently of the military, you thought
differently of policy, you thought differently of yourself!
I thought differently about everything. If you could say it, I thought
differently about it. Whether it be my relationship with my wife, the
treatment of my own life, my education, my family, my government, my
philosophies. I told you earlier I was big into existentialism. I became
an existentialist after that event. Before that I was a skeptic, kind
of a determinist. So everything about me changed.
Up to that point I had no contact
with my nieces and nephews and now I write every one of them - every
birthday, every Christmas. You know what I mean? I became Uncle Jon
and they know me. See, they didn’t know me to that point.
RAL: You opened.
JK: Oh yeah. I
realized…well, maybe it comes back to what I didn’t realize.
It’s about that whole connection, about connecting with each other.
I realized that I needed connections and I hadn’t had those connections.
And I thought, “For crying out loud, what a waste of my life!”
JK: Yeah, and
I hadn’t thought about it. It’s interesting you had me tell
the story too.
really powerful. That opens the possibility for you for the rest of
JK: Oh for sure.
RAL: To all new
relationships. I’m sensing this opening of Jon. Instead of the
boundaries around you, it’s kind of like an opening of the boundaries
and allowing other people in. Is that what happened there?
JK: Oh yes! We
opened up…I opened up, but also with every shift there are negative
things because I also became less tolerant of intolerance.
RAL: So really,
that collective resonance really has continued in you, even though it’s
not necessarily with those people, because you are now resonating with
others in a way that you couldn’t before.
interesting, yes. After that experience, I often thought about my death,
and not because I’m afraid of dying, because I’m not. I
was afraid of dying and not being a good human being. I thought, “If
I die and I’m a slug, this is pathetic.” And so I just realized
that I’m not going to die and not be a good human being. When
I die I want my family, my friends to say, “I’ll miss him.”
I don’t want them to say “Well, hell, …”, you
RAL: And you’re
living your life that way probably…
RAL: And what
are you feeling right now, Jon?
JK: Kind of odd
because when I left the Philippines, it was sort of an overnight thing.
In other words, I got my orders and Permission to Travel, and I left
within a two-day period. I went to Manila by taxi on my own and I thought,
“I’m outta here!” And I flew to Japan and then home
and I never looked back. Not running from it, but I just never looked
back. And I’ve never told the story. This is the first time I’ve
told the story.
RAL: How did it
feel to be telling the story?
JK: Kind of odd.
Because that would be eleven years ago now, I would guess. Odd in that
it’s like a movie. I know it happened because I was there. It
felt surreal then, it feels surreal now. It almost feels like it never
RAL: Are you in
touch with any emotions that you’re having right now related to
the people or to the experience or how it changed you or any of that?
JK: Yeah, I am.
I feel good about the experience because even though I left in a flash
and I really didn’t say goodbye to anybody, I know that was understood.
And I know that they would do the same thing, and I’m sure they
did. I know I built a relationship with them. And they probably have
forgotten my name but they’re standing in the same position I
am. And at least, there towards the end, we did care about each other
RAL: Do you feel
the need, Jon, to find them again, now that you’re more open?
JK: No. I don’t
feel the need. If we had left still under those really bad conditions,
I would feel the need because I would have left something undone. But
I didn’t leave it undone. We all left on good terms – really
RAL: You really
helped each other. Maybe that’s just a chapter in your life.
JK: It was…just…enough.
Even after we’d come together it was still not a very fun experience.
RAL: But it certainly
sounds like it had its purpose in your life.
JK: Yeah. But
now I’m really kind of stuck on the leaving. When I left, I mean
I left everything there. That’s why it seems so surreal because
I even left the story there. I don’t tell it! Subconsciously…I
left the story there.
I can speak Korean and I could
speak Tagalog when I was there, which is one of the major languages
in the Philippines. Now I can’t speak Tagalog. What I left was
my ability to speak Tagalog. As much as I tried, and I try and I struggle.
I mean, when I say I can’t, I can get some words out. I didn’t
get brain damaged, but I cannot make it flow. Because Tagalog is one
of the romantic languages and you could get it to flow and really rhyme
and my brain just went mush! I get it all turned around now.
Epilogue: The rest of this interview
became a flood of memories for Jon. He remembered names of fellow servicemen,
their backgrounds, personalities, beliefs, and specific encounters that
he had with them. About a month after the interview he contacted me
to let me know that the Philippine language Tagalog had come back to
him. He was suddenly able to speak it fluently again. Jon is planning
to receive his doctorate in June of 2004.
Note from Jon Kirwan, 21 November 2003:
As I read over this transcript, I noticed the flow and intelligibility
of the transcript was very rough. Yet, I feel it is best left the
way it was originally presented. In this manner, it remains genuine.
I must add, though, that the story still seems surreal to me. Despite,
each time I read it over, I begin to cry tears of happiness and sorrow.
I never miss an opportunity to tell some I love that I love them—never.
Though I am not perfect, everyday I try to become a better person….
I hope this recounting of a chapter in my life resonates with other
people. Life presents joy and pain…paradoxically, embrace both.
Sincerely, Jon Kirwan