Friday, August 31, 2007

A Heart-warming True Story

I was making the rounds in cyberspace, aimlessly reading whatever was available on this special day of independence celebration... and found this fascinating heart-warming story in The Australian.

One comment I am tempted to make, after the Malaysian sad Lina Joy tragedy, is the unhappy fact that the hero, Eroni Kumana, who had not only saved someone who turned out to be one of the greatest world leader of all times, after a courageous swim, sadly lost his home when an earthquake struck... and I think the generous well-off Americans (The Donald, the p.c. whizz kid, Bill, Spielberg, The Terminator, Arnold, etc.) could give him a nice cosy home. or something...Such appreciative generous deeds by the rich and famous is not uncommon to hear about if one is in the States, the world's richest nation...

Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't pay to be a helpful foreigner in most parts of the world especially when you're away from those you help. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the reality of the kind of world we live in today.

Well, when you look at the whole story, the gift of cash by the ship's crew wasn't too bad anyway as the hero can now have a roof over his aged head. The flag... I'm not sure I can picture him flying it proudly any where if he's a cash-strapped uncouth ex-scout native on an island.

Well, hanging it on the wall isn't a bad idea. I hang my given expensive silky Canadian flag high up on the wall together with my other miniature collection of international flags.

My apologies to The Australian for lifting this article from their webpage. Mates, I'm just a poor foreigner with a heart for fuzzy- hearted stories like this.

JFK rescuer is honoured after 64 years

Richard Lloyd Parry | September 01, 2007

AN elderly villager in the Solomon Islands has been honoured by the US Navy for a crucial, but little remembered, contribution to world history - the day, 64 years ago, when he saved the life of the future American president John F. Kennedy.

US Navy Secretary Donald Winter presented gifts including an American flag to Eroni Kumana, a native scout for the Allied forces, who went to the aid of Kennedy and his comrades during the Guadalcanal campaign in August 1943.

Mr Kumana, who is now in his mid-80s and nearly deaf, paddled 56km through Japanese-controlled waters to summon help, carrying a message carved into a coconut by the future president.

"I think it's a remarkable circumstance," said Mr Winter. "He changed our history ... and I'm very thankful to him for doing it."

Kennedy was a navy lieutenant in 1943 and the captain of a small wooden torpedo boat, the PT 109, commanded to harass Japanese supply convoys as they passed through the Blackett Strait, off Kolombangara Island. But on a moonless night, traveling with one engine for the sake of stealth, the boat was run down and sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer, killing two of the crew and pitching the rest into a sea of burning fuel.

The survivors spent several days swimming from one uninhabited island to another, trying to attract the attention of Allied vessels and struggling to avoid the attention of the Japanese.

Mr Kumana, then about 21, was a scout, one of the "coastwatchers" recruited by the Allies as they slowly won back control of the Solomon Islands. He and his friend Biuku Gasa were carrying a message when they were distracted by a wrecked Japanese ship, which they searched for food and clothes.

It was then, on Nauru Island, that they encountered the 26-year-old Kennedy and a fellow officer. "Those men were so happy and relieved to have been found by us," Mr Gasa said later. "They were very weak. They were crying."

On a green coconut, Kennedy carved a message and Mr Kumana and Mr Gasa carried it to the Rendova Harbour naval base, where hopes of finding the crew of the PT-109 had been all but abandoned.

Six days after the loss of his boat, Kennedy and his crew were rescued by US marines. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for "extremely heroic conduct".

"Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant Kennedy's ... outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives."

In 1961, Mr Kumana and Mr Gasa were invited to Kennedy's inauguration. But in Honiara, the Solomons' capital, officials decided they were too uncouth for the honour and sent some of their own number instead.

Two years later, Kennedy was assassinated. "I mourned for a whole week upon hearing of my friend's death," Mr Kumana said.

In April, his house was destroyed by an earthquake. The tsunami caused by the tremor killed 50 people. Last week, the crew of the USS Pelleliu, the visiting battleship on which Mr Kumana received his honours, had a whip-around and gave him $US1500 ($1834) -- enough to put a roof on his new home.

The Times

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