In 1936, at age 19, Louis Zamperini was one of the best middle-distance runners in the world. He was good enough to be on the U.S. team in the Berlin Olympics, where he finished eighth in the 5,000 meters and stood close enough to Adolf Hitler's box at the stadium to get a good look at the Nazi dictator. "I was pretty naí¯ve about world politics, and I thought he looked funny, like something out of a Laurel and Hardy film," Zamperini recalled in a 2003 interview with the New York Times.
During World War II, John Spence was the kind of hero who belonged in a comic book or movie serial. He was a member of an elite, top-secret team of combat divers called "frogmen," trained by the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today's Central Intelligence Agency, for critical but highly dangerous missions - from rescuing downed airmen before they could be captured to planting explosives on underwater barriers set up by the enemy to hinder beach landings by U.S. troops.
Robert Emmett "Bob" Fletcher, who died on May 23 at age 101 in the Sacramento area, fought heroically to defend his fellow Americans during World War II, though he never put on a uniform or fired a shot. His struggle, though, was not against the Axis powers. Rather, it was against an injustice perpetrated by the U.S. government itself: the 1942 forced relocation of 122,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them citizens, to internment camps, where they were held without charges out of a misguided suspicion that they might be disloyal. In addition to losing their liberty, the Japanese-American internees often lost the homes and businesses that they had to leave behind. In particular, Japanese-American farmers, who had to leave their crops untended, risked ruin.
My mother had a cleft palate. It was fixed when she was three years-old, and you could never tell anything was wrong by looking at her, but it left her with two impediments: her speech and her mother.
As I left my house last Thursday, I passed this cute little creature on the sidewalk, happily making his way to the other side with so much energy and enthusiasm. On the return trip back to the house, I once again came upon this little fella and was saddened to see he did not complete his (or her) journey.
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