Biographical Poetry posted January 9, 2019


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Their Legacies Live On...

To Seek Solace in October Skies

by Mrs. KT


Dedicated to the memory of my father, Daniel M. Kenel and my uncle, Sargent William A. Kenel

He seldom could speak his dear brother’s name,
But when he did, sorrow filled his kind eyes
Yet, he never spoke ill of those to blame,
Or why his gaze turned to October skies
 
But we who loved him knew of his keen pain
Of the brother lost in World War II’s frays,
And how his family sought in great vain
To make some sense of those bleak, ugly days…
 
I never knew my uncle or his dreams
I never sat and watched him carve his art
I never heard his laughter or his schemes
I never felt the fears within his heart
 
But I know he believed that he must go
To fight the enemy on foreign soil;
I know he trusted that God would bestow
Faith to somehow endure his wretched toil
 
But my uncle did not outwit fate’s clasp
Captured by the Japanese, he survived
For nearly three years amid hatred's grasp
Yet died, chained in “Hell” ship – freedom deprived…

My father and his loved ones carried on
Remembering the brother and son lost
Remembering the beauty in the dawn
Remembering the future that war cost
 
Their deep grief was lasting; their sorrow real
Yet, years later, Father freed his scarred heart
When he said, “It is time that we all heal”
And welcomed in our home, right from the start
 
A young woman of Japanese descent
A young woman whose laughter filled the air
A young woman for whom our home soon meant
A place to heal from sadness and despair
 
My uncle’s short life was not lived in vain:
Through his death, my father learned to forgive
Through his death, his family loved again
Through his death, I learned how to truly live...

I, too, search the skies when autumn winds blow
Trying to make sense of the hearts of men
I think of two brothers, war long ago,
and anguish far beyond my daily ken

What do I tell my children when they voice
Their fears of war, hatred, and evil’s seal?
I tell them of my uncle - his life’s choice
I tell them, “It is time that we all heal.”



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Author's Notes: Sgt. William A. Kenel, U. S. Army Air Corps, was among the 12,000 American soldiers who were surrendered to the Japanese at the tip of the Bataan Peninsula on April 9, 1942, during World War II. He survived the infamous Bataan Death March where over 1,000 soldiers perished during the nine-day, 55-mile long trek, and the brutality of Cabanatuan Prison. On October 11, 1944, he, along with 1774 other prisoners was crammed, at bayonet point, into the cargo hold of an unmarked Japanese "Hell " ship, the Arisan Maru, that sailed from Manila, Philippine Islands to the Japanese mainland. On October 24, 1944, the vessel was sunk by the American submarine, the U.S.S. Snook in the South China Sea. The captain of that ship committed suicide when he learned that his torpedoes had killed over 1500 men who had been chained in the cargo hold of the Japanese ship. For his valor, my uncle was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously. He had been a prisoner of war for thirty-one months. He was twenty-four years old when he perished.

My father, Daniel Matthew Kenel, was a man of quiet strength and dignity. By his very nature, he was a man of few words. Never was this truer than when someone brought up his brother, Bill. My father had great difficulty speaking of his younger brother, "Bodie;" his passing left a tremendous gaping hole in the heart of my father's family.

The reference to the dawn in line 23 is from my uncle to my grandparents, Anton and Lucy Kenel. "There is still beauty in a sunrise and a sunset," my uncle wrote on a Red Cross card that he was allowed to send to my grandparents during his internment in Cabanatuan. Since prisoners dared not write of their infirmities, this was his way of letting his loved ones know he still had his eyesight. My father remembers my grandfather saying, "At least we know Bodie can still see."

Yet, twenty-six years later, in 1970, when I was a senior in high school, my father welcomed into our family a Japanese exchange student, Natsumi Murakami, whose father had been a guard in the Japanese Imperial Army - stationed at the Imperial House of Japan under Hirohito. It was my mother's idea for our family to host an exchange student. When my mother shared that our student would be Japanese, my father was silent for a moment, and then he said the words that remain for me to this day the ultimate testimony of forgiveness, "It is time that we all heal." Natsumi Murakami lived with our family for an entire year. We all came to dearly love her...

That in itself is the triumph and legacy of my uncle's life. . .and perhaps, my father's as well...

Diane Kenel-Truelove 1/9/2019

Photograph of a northern Michigan October sunrise compliments of Google Images.
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