HAGATNA, Guam—Service members from all branches of the U.S. military joined the local community to commemorate Guam’s 73rd Liberation Day with a parade last Friday, July 21.
The day of celebration concluded a week of remembrance and memorials held to pay respects to the lives lost during World War II and the liberation of Guam and the Mariana Islands by the Third Marine Division and U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry Division on July 21, 1944.
“I am grateful for everyone who helped make this 73rd Liberation Day parade a success, as it is important to celebrate our history,” said Mayor Jesse Blas of Yona, the Liberation Day Parade Committee co-chairman. “Having the military here reflects this year’s Liberation Day theme, ‘Strength in Unity’; we are truly stronger together as a community, both local and military.”
The Third Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, is based in Okinawa, Japan, and is the unit recognized for liberating Guam in 1944. Several members of the command were in attendance, including Sgt. Maj. Vincent Santiago, who is native of Merizo, Guam, and whose grandmother was nearly executed during the war.
“My grandmother was being lined up to be executed,” said Santiago during an interview in 2016. “That day, when she was lined up to be executed, it was raining hard, and the Japanese soldiers called off the execution. A week later, the Marines liberated Guam. So I look back at that story, and it reminds me of why I serve. It gives me the opportunity to give back to a division that gave so much to me and to the people of Guam. So I may be sitting here today as a Marine, but to be sitting here as a division sergeant for the division that liberated my [grandmother], I just swell with pride.”
The 73rd commemoration of the Marines landing on Guam included food, music, dancing, special observances and a parade down Marine Corps drive featuring more than 55 floats and marching units. The island’s military commands showed their commitment to the Liberation Day parade theme of “Strength in Unity” and showed up in force to participate in the day’s festivities.
Commander, Submarine Squadron 15 sailors marched alongside the command’s submarine float, handing out candy to children watching the parade. The float’s water jets were manned by COMSUBRON 15 staff member children, and the sail was manned by Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Perkins, the command’s operations officer.
Senior Chief Hospital corpsman Michael Atkinson of COMSUBRON 15 escorted Royal Princess Gabriella Paulino Taitague of the command’s sister village, Inarajan. Taitague’s float preceded the submarine float and sailors from Atkinson’s command.
“What an absolutely wonderful day of celebration and remembrance,” said Cmdr. Matthew Freniere, COMSUBRON 15 deputy for Material Readiness. “We are thrilled to participate in events like this throughout the year in the local communities, but the Liberation Day parade is the highlight for many of our sailors. The áfa›maolek, a Chamorro word meaning ‘cooperation’ or ‘interdependence,’ between the sailors and airmen serving in Guam and the Chamorro people is clearly evident in today’s events. For COMSUBRON 15 sailors, events like this and the ones in our sister village of Inarajan make us feel like we are at home while being over 8,000 miles away for many of us. It was an honor to be a part of such a great event and be stationed in such a wonderful and welcoming community. Go Guam!”
Submarine tender USS Emory S. Land also participated in the parade with 92 sailors marching alongside the float from Asan, which is one of Land’s three sister villages.
“Thank you so much for being here today, and thank you for allowing us to have the freedom that we have,” said Blas. “Thank you so much to all the service members.”
Every branch of the military on Guam had representation at the parade to include units from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, Sea Cadets, and Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.
“Each year since the first Liberation Day parade, the island continues to unite to celebrate a timeless respect and gratitude for those who died and those who lived, Chamorro and military, through the war,” said Joint Region Marianas commander Shoshana Chatfield in her 2017 Liberation Day message. “On behalf of Joint Region Marianas, we continue to be humbled by this history and by the inclusion of so many participants as we take part in the memorial events. We are honored and grateful to the people of Guam who have welcomed us as part of the community, supporting us and allowing us to fulfill our oath to protect and move the mission forward.”
COMSUBRON 15 is located at Polaris Point, Naval Base Guam in Apra Harbor, Guam, and consists of four Los Angeles-class attack submarines. The squadron staff is responsible for providing training, material and personnel readiness support to these commands. Also based out of Naval Base Guam are submarine tenders USS Frank Cable and USS Emory S. Land. The submarines and tenders are maintained as part of the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed submarine force and are readily capable of meeting global operational requirements.