Burke Waldron, a 95-year-old Battle of Saipan veteran, was presented with a World War II medallion after the Liberation Day parade yesterday. He was also named the honorary grand marshal by the Liberation Day committee.
The medallion consists of the World War II in the Pacific emblem and the official seals of the participating branches of service. The phrase, “Our grateful islands remember,” is also inscribed in the medallion. Government officials and dignitaries commended Waldron’s service during the battles of Saipan and Tinian.
The last time Waldron was on Saipan was in 1944. Seventy-five years later, he came back for the 75th anniversary of the battles of Saipan and Tinian. He vividly remembers the day he arrived on the shores of Garapan. He spent most of his time at the old lighthouse on Navy Hill because it was the base of their operations and communications.
Since arriving last Monday, Waldron has visited the American Memorial Park and the lighthouse on Navy Hill. He said that visiting the lighthouse brought back many memories. “It was a different sight when I got up there, but I could see. I used to climb up at the very top [with my friends]. We would sit around, have our Bible studies, and pray together because it was just a special place for us,” he added.
Although Waldron has traveled to many states to tell his stories of the war, he was so touched by the stories of civilians, such as David “Uncle Dave” M. Sablan, who were caught in between the battles that took place in the Marianas.
Waldron was amazed and grateful for being awarded and experiencing the Liberation Day parade. “This is the real spirit of America,” he said.
“Every one of those people had a love for America… They made a world for themselves here and they’re all together, but, culturally, they’re able to enjoy their own way of life in their traditions. I thought that was so fantastic. This is the melting pot of America,” Waldron said when asked about his first experience at Saipan’s Liberation Day parade.