The battles for the Japanese islands toward the end of WWII were as horrific as they were necessary and in an age where we can be appalled at a few thousand casualties in a year, losing thousands in a hour seems unimaginable. In an age where we feel obligated to thank everyone who ever wore a uniform for his service in perpetuity and call him a hero; in an age where every dubious deployment is a fight for our "freedom," it might be worthwhile to remember the few remaining survivors of the assaults on Japan and Europe with a little extra respect.
I don't know whether Shorty Belton was considered a hero in 1945 or whether he considered himself one for having taken a bullet at Okinawa, but I do. What then can I think of the two teenage boys who beat him to death for sport in Spokane Washington on Wednesday? Certainly no less than I think of the teenagers who shot the Australian baseball player to death for no goddamned reason. I take it personally. If it weren't for guys like Belton the world would be unrecognizable and a lot worse than it is.
In some way I take it personally that much of our nation has, despite all the lip service and jingoistic rhetoric, forgotten not so much the sacrifice of a generation but forgotten the horror they fought and died to end. Not only has time seemed to erase the infamy, but generations of propaganda and decades of stage managed amnesia have transferred the infamy to us. I'm betting these monsters never heard of Pearl Harbor much less the violent murder of millions perpetrated by the Empire of Japan -- as many as 16 million in China alone. Like December 7th, 1941, September 22, 2013 is a date that should live in infamy. It's the date Shorty died. Unfortunately infamy is as mortal as everything else. We forget.
No, I'm not one of those people who will attempt to profit or make some point by raging about an increase in violent crime in a year when murder is at a hundred year low. I'm not proposing some program, some legislation, some stronger or more lenient laws. The significance of this to me is that there is no significance. It's about the banality of heroism as well as the banality of evil. It's about human nature. Some people murder for money, some for hate, some for revenge, but they killed Shorty Belton out of boredom - for amusement, because they could. The most vicious and fanatical military on Earth couldn't get Shorty, but some bored bastards without a conscience and without respect did. There is no explanation.