The Japanese Flag-The Return Home

This is post 3 out of  series I have written about a flag my Grandfather Vern brought home to Illinois after his service during World War II.
To read Part 1-click here.  Part 2-click here.

The flag is home.

The prayer flag that my Grandfather brought home from World War II, the flag that was taken from a battlefield 73 years ago, finally made it’s way back to the family last month.

The soldier’s name was Yoshizo Makuta.

He died in battle in April of 1945.  He left behind a wife and two sons.

Two sons who never knew their father.  They were very young when their father passed away.  Two sons aged two and one at the time of their father’s death.

We received a letter from the sole remaining son of Yoshizo Makuta, Katsuo Makuta.  He told me that he felt confused by news that his father’s flag had been found.  He had no memories of his father.  His mother struggled badly after her husband’s death to raise her two sons alone.  She never got to say goodbye to her husband.  No body was returned to her from the war.  As the war escalated, she was forced to move from the old town of Kawasaki of Kanagawa prefecture that she and her husband had been living in prior to him going off to battle, back to Kuwaori of Fukushima prefecture that they were originally from.  So, with two small boys in tow, she returned to be closer to her family.  Family that ended up helping her raise her boys.  He said his mother seldom talked about her husband after that.

Katsuo Makuta’s mother passed away at the age of 96, 7 years ago.

Katsuo Makuta’s brother passed away 3 years ago at the age of  71.

Katsuo Makuta was sad that his mother and brother never got to experience the joy of the return of his father.  But, he knows that they are in heaven and delighted to see his return.

This is an excerpt of what he wrote to me in his own words…

When I touched my father’s flag this time, however, I truly felt him.  Not only did I feel the greatness of him who dedicated himself to the country, but also, I felt his disappointment that he lost his life in the battlefield.  I could not stop crying when I remembered my mother’s hardship back then.

Such powerful words.  A man who loved his mother who suffered greatly after the loss of her husband.  His father looks so young in the photo shown below.  I can’t begin to imagine what struggles she must have had to endure to successfully raise two sons alone and the grief she must have felt for a part of her that was missing every day.

I am grateful that my dad saw the story on CBS Sunday Morning when he did.  And I’m glad that we decided to return the flag that Grandpa had brought back with him from battle.  We rarely took the flag out of the bamboo container it was brought to the United States in.  It has been remarkably preserved.  Mr. Makuta thanked us for caring for it so well all of these years.  We are forever grateful for the work The Obon Society has done for us (and countless other families) to get these flags, these soldiers, back to Japan.

Healing comes in many forms.

Time doesn’t erase the pain that people must deal with after a war has ended.

73 years have passed since my Grandfather Vern and Mr. Makuta unknowingly tied two families together during battle in the Philippines.  Four new generations have been made since that fateful day.  Generations that can comprehend the complexities of death and the power of healing over time.

Yoshizo Makuta has returned home.

His son Katsuo says that he now feels his father’s soul has returned to them and he senses him watching over them now.

He and his family feel comfort from the heart…which is what we had hoped for them.

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