Thursday, November 15, 2012

Two Soldiers, Four Wars, One Name

by NMguiniling

It’s Guiniling. Pronounced “Gah-Kneeling,” it is my husband’s maternal last name, which traces back to the highlands of the Philippines.

It’s not that I find my own given name particularly un-likeable.  As a child of the modern-day ‘blended family’ (and one in which my mother kept her maiden name in marriage), I’ve contemplated the idea of name-changing, hyphenating, and all manner of Onomastics since I was pretty young. For instance, my maiden name, Burton, is of English origin and refers to one “residing near a fort or garrison,” whereas my maternal last name, “Wenger” refers to one’s German place of residence, “on a grassy hill”. But Guiniling is the name my husband and I have chosen for its ability to tell an important chapter of our family history.
It is now only heresay that Inting Guinling, my late grandfather-in-law, was born in August of the year 1900. That date comes from an approximation on his U.S. Army enlistment papers, which were filed some 18 years later. On the paper, Inting’s middle name is listed as “Igorot”, (pronounced Eee-Goo-Root), which refers to the Guiniling family’s tribe—somewhat similar to “Cherokee” or “Navajo”.
At the dawn of World War I, it was to the U.S. Army’s advantage to recruit these highland tribes who had eluded both Spanish and American colonial campaigns. In addition to having had little to no contact with Westerners, this meant the Igorot and other mountain folk knew little to nothing of the effects of the Philippine War of Independence, which took the lives of 600,000 of their countrymen at the hands of both Conquistadores and later, U.S. Marines
 Inting was recruited to the Philippine Scout (PS) special forces unit of the U.S. Army in 1919, and served until the end of the war. He was called back into service for World War II, where he fought in the Bataan Region with the 42nd and 45th Infantry regiments against Japanese soldiers. Jon, my uncle-in-law, explained to my husband and I in a recent e-mail:
When the [U.S. Army in the Philippines] surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Inting refused to surrender. Instead, he escaped and went back to the mountains and joined the guerrillas fighting the Japanese. He always eluded capture, even after his… units surrendered (Writer’s note: this surrender led to what is known as the ‘Bataan Death March.’ More than half of the P.S. died in battle or as POW’s of the Japanese in WWII). He finally rejoined the U.S. Army in 1944 when Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to liberate the Philippines from the imperial forces of Japan. When Japan surrendered in 1945, he escorted surrendering Japanese soldiers to Manila to be shipped back to Japan. He was discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946 after 27 years of honorable military service. He earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with a combat V, Asiatic Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory Medal and many more. He died on Dec. 21, 1968"
Despite all this, and General MacArthur’s comments in a 1942 Time Magazine article that the Igorots were an important part of the war effort, the Philippine Scouts are still considered “Forgotten Soldiers,” overlooked and under-recognized for their sacrifice. Perhaps Inting’s long list of honours are a true testament to just how incredible his actions were.

There is no doubt in any of our minds that Inting Guiniling is a hero. It was because of him that his entire family was granted U.S. citizenship. He is the reason his daughter, my mother-in-law, was able to attend university tuition-free. He is the reason my husband was born in the United States. He is a hero simply for these gifts that gave his family the chance to have a better life. My husband and I certainly wouldn’t have met and fallen in love without him. (Thanks, Grandpa Inting!)
But war—as many people are touching on this year, as we enter the 11th round of the Global War on Terror—is about more than heroes and their valiant deeds

My husband’s uncle is the oldest of his mother’s siblings—old enough to remember the war stories, and more..
One morning in the family hut (still, at this time, in the highlands of Mountain Province), Uncle Jon as a child tried to wake his father. Grandpa Inting awoke in a panic, and proceeded to beat his son into the wall of the hut. He would apologize some time later, explaining to Uncle Jon that he didn’t recognize his son—or where he was.

And then there were the times, my husband told me, when his Lola (Grandma) had to flee into the forest with her children, in order to hide from her husband—who would slip into fits of rage, would grab his gun out of the blue and put himself on “guard duty” outside of their home, for indefinite periods of time.
These used to be the things that every military family had a story about, but no one was allowed to speak of. Paranoia, unpredictable rage and violence, and ‘hyper-vigilance’— a term described by post-trauma psychiatrist Kathleen Whip as, “When you’re in a constant state of readiness, even when you don’t have to be”—are all the symptoms we know today associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Certainly, the word didn’t exist in Inting’s day—some refuse to believe it exists in 2012.
It was in part the acknowledgement of PTSD’s existence that my husband refused a second deployment. After 15 months in Afghanistan, he was unwilling to return there or go to Iraq. From the Panjwai Massacre to the torture of Afghan detainees; from Abu Ghraib to White Phosphorus, it has become clear that this decision may have saved his sanity.

He didn’t qualify for C.O. Status (a Conscientious Objector in the U.S. Army must categorically oppose all forms of violence, including self defense). A request of transfer to a non-combat role was ripped up by his commanding officer. Isolated, depressed, exhausted, trapped, and clearly suffering from PTSD, my husband did what was best for his own self-preservation: he went to Canada. He separated himself from his trauma, and sought to understand it and come to terms with it. He did not, as his grandfather and countless others did before him, resign to it as a “necessary evil” of man, of war, of life.
Soldiers today have more information about PTSD than any generation before them. Should we still be thinking of war the same way? Should my husband, for instance, have committed himself regardless, like his grandfather did–despite his knowledge of PTSD and things like international law?
Soldiers who leave the army, as my husband has, face courts-martial and jail time for refusing to destroy themselves and other people in the process. A jail sentence of one day over a year will brand you a felon for the rest of your life. Felons, in exchange for their crimes, forsake the right to vote and bear arms in all but two U.S. states.
 Former U.S. soldier Robin Long served a 15 month sentence in2008-2009 for going AWOL to Canada, refusing to fight in the Iraq War 
Where two U.S. wars gave one Guiniling citizenship for his family, two other wars may be what takes it away. 
As the notoriously anti-war veteran and writer Kurt Vonnegut would have said, “So it goes”.
Canada, since Vietnam, has changed its tone on the subject of War Resisters and Draft Dodgers (there is no “draft’ per se, but Stop-Loss legislation in the U.S. is a de-facto draft of servicemen and women, and it has led many to re-deploy indefinately—not disconnected from the greatest suicide epidemic that the country has ever seen). Whereas Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals welcomed them in the 1970s, Harper’s Conservatives find the cacophony of PTSD claims and human rights abuses—all the natural bi-products of war—to be highly inconvenient in a time they are trying to re-brand of Canada as a Warrior Nation.
Come what may, “Guiniling” is more than a name for my my husband and me. It is the story of a legacy and a family, born of war and its plurality of meaning.
I remain optimistic. After all, ‘Nicole’ means “Victory of the People”.
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Ed Note: This piece was originally published on November 10th on Nicole's Blog. She has agreed to share it  here on VetSpeak in support of our mutual mission to put a human face on the Toronto Resisters (49ers), as we work torwards Amnesty for all Resisters and Deported Veterans.