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By Scott Hansen, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs
When Jeff Blas was a young boy growing up on Guam, he asked his father one day why so many Americans were always hanging out at the local market, buying beer, soda and snacks.
There was a nearby U.S. military base, his father explained at the time, and many U.S. Service Members would come there to shop.
“He mentioned to me that, if I ever got a chance to meet while I was at the store, to shake hands and thank them for their service," said Blas, quality assurance specialist, Code 136.1, Non-Nuclear Quality Assurance. "It was [service members] who liberated us from the Japanese forces who occupied our island for more than two-and-a-half years during World War II.”
That liberation happened 79 years ago.
Blas shared more of his thoughts on that liberation July 18, 2023, during the Asian American-Pacific Islander Employee Resource Group’s Guam Liberation Day celebration at the CFC Stage, outside Building 850 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility.
“July 21, 1944 is a very special day in Guam’s history,” said Blas, the event’s featured speaker, to an audience of approximately 200 workforce members. “It’s the day that the 3rd Marine Division and 1st Provisional Brigade of the U.S. Marine Corps and the 77th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army landed on the beaches of Guam to begin its liberation from Japanese occupation.”
The lunch-hour event also featured a slide show on the U.S. military’s liberation of Guam, traditional food and even a few historical artifacts from the island.
“The goal today is to [help the workforce] better understand the traditions of the people of Guam and its diverse culture,” said AAPI ERG co-lead Villiamu Kuaea, improvement specialist and program analyst, Code 1030, Submarine Product Line. “And hopefully to adopt some of those traditions into the workforce.”
Even though it happened nearly 80 years ago, Guam Liberation Day is still extremely personal for Blas, a 10-year employee at PSNS & IMF.
“Today, we share a close bond with the United States," Blas told audience members during the event. "We currently have two strategic U.S. bases — Naval Base Guam, located in the south of the island, and Anderson Air Force Base, located in the north, as well as the Guam Army National Guard. And we also have fellow PSNS & IMF family members TDY in Guam to help defend our pacific interests, our island and to keep our world at peace.”