A War With Consequences | Teen Ink

A War With Consequences

May 10, 2022
By AWHITEMORE, Erie, Colorado
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AWHITEMORE, Erie, Colorado
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Author's note:

The prompt for my essay was to create an essay based off an image. The image I chose is shown at the start of my book and is an image of the island hopping campaign.

[December 7, 1941] 

The moon was still shining in the sky on Wednesday morning as I woke up. I tried to follow the same routine in Hawai’i as I once did in San Francisco: wake up quietly enough that Maria only complains once, shower while brushing my teeth, pour a cup of orange juice, and then sit outside to watch the sunrise. This morning didn’t really go as I had hoped, however; the dark bayan floorboards in our master bedroom creaked loudly enough to the point that Maria got up out of bed herself. Yesterday, I went to the local fruit stand to buy oranges and was intrigued by the many different fruits grown here. I decided I might as well try a coconut while here. This morning though, I found out that actually extracting the water from a coconut is more work than I thought. I didn’t make it to our porch to watch the sunrise. Instead, I was outside just as the last slivers of the sun rose above the vast Pacific Ocean. That’s at least something, right? I thought to myself. I decided to stay outside and read the morning paper and mail until the rest of my family came out to join me. Soon, this time spent with them would be no more; by next Monday my week-long “vacation” will be over, and I’ll go work at the naval base in Pearl Harbor. I enlisted into the army six months ago back in California, but just about a week ago my family and I were asked to move to Hawai’i. I believed this was because the US felt that war was coming. The chances the US would get sucked up into the conflict in Europe seemed ever more likely by the day. If not the war in Europe, then maybe a conflict with Japan. When that starts, I don’t know when or how much I’m going to be able to see my family. 

“Good morning Da-da!” Lula said as she walked through the screen door holding her mother's hand. Lula then proceeded to let go of Maria’s hand and ran toward my arms to be picked up so she could sit on my lap.

“Good morning, my beautiful! How did you sleep?” I replied. 

“Great, thanks for asking,” Maria said aggressively, but jokingly, as she set Ruby in the outside carriage we had for her.

“Ma-ma is a little bit grumpy this morning isn’t she?” I joked to Lula. She laughed, giving back a small cheesy grin.

“No, I am not. And for that comment, you have to look after the kids while I go get myself some breakfast!” Maria proclaimed to both Lula and me, but mainly me. I gave Lula a surprised look after her mother’s declaration. Maria walked away, opening the screen door back into the kitchen. As I sat with Lula on my lap, who is rapidly scanning our backyard to find her next adventure, I glanced over to Ruby who was happily sleeping. A loud humming noise began to fly overhead. 

“Da-da, do you hear that? A bee!” Lula asked, trying to bring my attention back to her.

“Yes Lula, a bee. A very large one in fact!” I responded to Lula as I still locked my gaze on Ruby. I knew that this supposed “bee” was in fact not a bee, and actually a plane, but I couldn’t ruin Lula’s imagination.

“And look Da-da, black clouds too!” Lula said again trying to get my attention. Black clouds? I thought to myself. I glanced back over towards Lula, her gaze off into the distance. I followed her eyes and saw the “black clouds” she was so happy to discover, funneling up from the harbor.

[August 18, 1942]

The sun beat down on my back as I grabbed my duffel bag, moving up another position in line. I’d been waiting for 15 minutes in line to get my bunk assignment. My family was also waiting for me to say one last goodbye before I was deployed to join the Guadalcanal campaign. Finally, it was time to get out of this line, this sun.

“Name?” the officer asked.

“Harry Clark Foster,” I answered. The officer then proceeded to flip through the numerous papers, murmuring my last name “Foster” under his breath repeatedly, for what seemed to be an eternity in this heat.

“Ah yes, found yah! Foster: bunk 52. Bunkmate: Rico Lopez” he announced.

“Thank you, sir,” I replied as I grabbed my bag, walking back to my family. There under a small monkeypod tree, Maria stood, slowly pushing Ruby in her carriage back and forth as Lula ran circles around the both of them. 

“Sorry honey, that took longer than expected,” I apologized to my wife.

“No no, don’t worry at all. We are quite pleasant here under the shade,” Maria comforted me. 

“Well, this is it,” I said softly, “one final goodbye.” Maria nodded slightly. I bent down to pick up Lula and gave her a big hug.

“See you later, alligator,” I said to her

“In a while, crocodile,” Lula replied. I then squeezed a little tighter before I set Lula back down. After, I reached my head over Ruby’s stroller and gave her a big smile before saying, “love you little one.” Maria told me the day before that I can’t say anything to her and to make it quick, or else she would burst into tears. Before I could even pull my head back from over Ruby, I felt Maria’s arms collapse around my chest squeezing tight. As I then tried to stand up, the hug released and the moment was over. I picked up my bag and proceeded to walk away; after around 20 steps, I took a glance back over my shoulder to look at my family one last time before I kept walking. 

[August 18, 1942]

Holding back the tears, I made my way to the ship to find my bunk. As I was walking, I heard my name called in the distance. That voice, it’s familiar, I thought to myself. All of a sudden a hand latched my shoulder and spun me around. A tall man, not much older than me, was standing in front of me.

“Arthur!” I said. I can’t believe my brother found me! I knew he was going to be here, but we would be too busy to see each other, I thought to myself.

“Harry, I’m happy I found you. I don’t have much time at all, but I wanted to at least say hello before we left,” Arthur replied 

“No, of course, I have to get running anyways too.”

“Well, sorry for the rush, but see you later,” Arthur said as he slowly started to spin around. 

“Goodbye, brother,” I said with a smile.

“Hey, no goodbyes, I’ll see you in no time.” Arthur smirked when saying this. I took a second to think. Thoughts I had been suppressing for months began to race through my mind, but at this moment I actually gave them the chance to speak. What if we don’t see each other again, what if this is it? I stood there, in the middle of the port, my mind wrapped up in a conversation with just my subconscious. Time seemed to stop. Only time will tell what will happen, but for now, just believe. 

“Watch out!” a man yelled as he quickly maneuvered to avoid hitting me in his army truck. 

“Sorry,” I said half-heartedly. I snapped back, like the rubber band on the morning paper when you slide it off. Trying to regain myself, I walked onto the ship to find bunk 52. 49, 50, 51, 52! There it is. As I pulled the curtain to my bunk I was greeted by a man; I supposed it was my bunkmate, Rico Lopez.

“Hey, it's Rico! Nice to meet you, Harry! Wait, it's Harry right?” 

“Correct! Nice to meet you too Rico” 

“I went ahead and took the top bunk if that’s ok with you Harry”

“That works for me, I’m just happy to get out of that heat!”

“It really is hot out there today, but we better get used to it. I heard it's even hotter in Guadalcanal and they have the strangest insects!”

“How inviting,” I said. The conversation died out slowly; not in the bad, awkward kind of way, but in the natural, I-have-other-things-to-do-way. The bunks were small. Small enough that they looked like they were designed for kids, not adults. Better get used to it, I thought. I’m going to get tired of saying that. Today was just the first day of deployment. First, it would be the beds I got used to, then the food, then the gunfire, then the war. 

[September 25, 1942]

The campaign on Guadalcanal was starting to gain speed. Days seemed to be shooting by. It felt like just yesterday I arrived on this island with 40 other men piled into the LPC. The scorching sun, the blasting gunshots, and the rationed food all seemed normal now. War wasn’t really what I imagined it would be. I pictured arriving on this island and being greeted by an all-out blood bath, but in actuality, war was a lot more strategic. Instead of fighting, for the majority of my time so far I’d been walking miles a day, trying to gain an advantage through positioning. Because of this, Rico and I had developed a strong friendship. He was from California too, but San Diego. He was natively Hispanic, but his family moved to the US in his childhood. It was funny: whenever we ate food we like to play this game of saying something that reminded us of home. At the base, what we both were saying was similar, yet a little different; I’d say I missed my wife’s clam chowder, while Rico would say his wife’s chilaquiles. Sometimes we talked about more serious topics like our opinions on the war. Unlike me, Rico was drafted. I could tell he was nervous to be here; he frequently jerked when loud mortar shots went off, or he went quiet whenever we called a sniper out. I would never tell him this, or anyone besides Maria, but I was also scared to be here. I had a family back home, a family I loved and cared for. I enlisted into the army because fighting this war would keep my family safe; I enlisted because I needed to. I may not have been ready for it, but it had to be done. My usual reply to Rico was just, “my brother forced me to join”. It wasn’t entirely untrue, Arther did have a big impact on me joining the force, but I joined to protect Maria, Lula, and Ruby. 

[October 31, 1942]

Today, I was given this letter sent from Maria:

Dear Harry,


I’m sorry I haven’t written since you were deployed. Life really hasn’t been the same without you. I wake up in the morning and turn over to see the sheets are still nice and made on your side of the bed. Lula asks every day when you will come back home. Ruby took her first steps just two weeks ago, and her father wasn’t there to see it. I fully support your decision to join the army, but I’m just scared, Harry. The news in the papers keeps headlining death, and I’m scared one day it’s going to be you. I tried to keep in touch with the other military spouses but they couldn't help me either. I miss you, Harry, I miss my husband. I hope you’re safe, and the girls and I will be waiting until the day you return. Until then I don’t know how much I’ll be able to write to you, because it breaks my heart every time I try to.

Love you,


My heart shattered when reading this. For all the time I’d known Maria, she had been my rock. Since we met in middle school, Maria was keeping me in check, always there to guide me. Hearing of her like this broke me. I joined this war to protect my family, not to drive them to sadness. And my girls, my beautiful little girls. I missed my daughter's first steps, moments I will never be able to get back. I desperately wanted to write back to Maria. I wanted to tell her it was going to be ok, and I’d be home soon. But how could I say that? My battalion was just given word that we were chosen to join a group of marines in their offensive west of Matanikau after the recent victory in the Battle for Henderson Field. For all I knew, I could have been dead by the next day. As much as I wanted to speak to Maria, I couldn’t face writing to her at this time. I want to be lying next to her in our yard, watching the red sunset slowly over the horizon as Ruby and Lula play with each other on the grass, not here in this hell hole. I wanted to be home.

[November 3, 1942]

I’m exhausted, but I survived. Our attack on the Point Cruz area was successful. After two and a half long days of battle, my battalion, and the six marine battalions we joined, were able to capture Kokumbona headquarters. There was a point when I didn’t believe I would make it, but my battalion had a drive that I’d never seen before. With them, I felt safe. Then, once we finished setting up camp and asserting our position in the Point Cruz Area, we could finally rest. Rico and I were assigned to set up the water stations, one of the easier tasks. After 6 long walks carrying the heavy water carriers from the beach to the edge of the jungle, Rico and I were able to relax, if one can even relax while at war. While Rico went to go find our foxhole that had been made by another soldier, I went to inform Commander Edson that our job had been completed. Walking back through camp was surreal. Just 6 hours ago I was fighting to save my life on these beaches. The beach was lined with numerous bodies, mainly Japs, but some of our own. That could have been me, that could be Arthur, I thought to myself. These thoughts of death are ever-increasing in my mind. The more I saw action in this war, the more bodies I saw left behind. I couldn’t stop myself from thinking that one day, me or Rico or Arthur might become one of them. Just as I made it to Commander Edson’s tent, he emerged from the rain cover.

“Commander, the water stations have been set up on the jungle’s edge,” I said as I stopped my motion and saluted him.

“Very good Foster, now is your time to rest. Make good use of it, as we never know when we will be needed for action again,” Edson replied.

“Yes sir” I answered in a booming voice. Just as I proceeded to head over to meet Rico at our foxhole, Commander Edson then tried to regain my attention.

“Foster, one more thing. I received this today after our battle; I think you might want it” Edson said as he handed me a small piece of paper that was folded in half. I reached out my arm to grab the paper, trying to avoid brushing all the dirt from my hands onto the Commander. Pulling the note back to my body, I went to unfold it. The label at the top reads “Casualty list: Month of October 1942”. My eyes surged as they began to search rapidly down the paper looking for a name I recognized. It didn’t take long for my eyes to lock onto the name “Arthur Foster”.

“It was an ambush at night. They were outnumbered 10 to 30. I’m truly sorry for your loss, I never got the chance to meet Arthur, but I’ve been told by many that he was a great man,” Commander said, trying to console me.

“He was,” I said softly, trying to hold back the tears flooding my eyes, “he really was.”

[March 7, 1943] 

I was sent back home. Not by choice, but by necessity. After I found out that my brother died, I lost my head. I was engulfed by emotions of anger, sadness, and guilt. My fellow soldiers and commanding officers began to notice my performance declining. Eventually, it got to the point where I was removed from duty. I became a “liability” on the battlefield, struggling to find the motivation to fight in this war. At that point, Arthur was all I had going. The one and only letter I ever received from Maria broke my heart and made me realize that my initial intentions of joining the force were wrong. Without her, the only fuel I had left to support me was my brother. The idea that if I keep fighting, if I keep winning, Arthur will stay alive, pushed me to lift my eyes each day. But when I opened that note, I found out that all those men I killed, all this time away from my family I’d spent was for nothing. Now I was trying to get back to my old life, life before deployment. Even though I was now not allowed to participate in active duty, I felt the need to at least do something; I had been working at the Naval base here in Hawai’i. I let my family, Rico, and my brother down. I wasn’t strong enough to make it through this war. How dare I just sit on the sidelines, as young men die fighting for their country. Maria tried to tell me that Arthur knew what he was signing up for, but it didn't help. I felt guilty. If I had fought harder and done more in the war, I could be sitting next to my brother right now. Instead, I had to drag myself through my days, looking for any scraps of motivation I can. I felt empty.  

[May 1, 1950]

The orange rays from the sun shined bright onto my wine glass as Maria and I stood out on the balcony of the restaurant. The evening was calm with only a slight breeze. Looking out over the ocean brought me comfort. It was the 5-year-anniversary of WWII for veterans of Hawai’i, and I was honestly nervous. The last time I saw some of these men was when I was at my worst. Maria at first had to convince me to come to this; I myself didn’t feel like I classified as a veteran. I left the war less than a year in, what kind of soldier did that make me? Maria always tells me I’m as much of a soldier as the rest of the men, but it didn’t always feel that way. I couldn’t show my nerves to any of these men, or else they would definitely have thought I was weak. I turned back my head to look at my wife and saw a familiar face over Maria’s shoulder as she was speaking. The face began to move in and I realized who it was.

“Harry, I'm glad you came!” Commander said, walking up to me.

“Of course, I’m happy to be here,” I said half-truthfully back to Edson. He looked a little older than I expected him to look; almost like the war accelerated his aging. His silver hairs shined bright in the sun and the wrinkles around his eyes showed all of the troubles he witnessed. Just as our conversation began to develop, a voice began speaking on the loudspeaker. It was time to sit down and begin the ceremony while eating dinner. Many soldiers gave speeches during this time; mainly about how they felt a connection to each and every person in this room, whether they knew them or not. The connection was purely based on the fact that they all had fought in the war 5 years ago. I myself did not feel this connection. As the night went on, my feelings that I was an imposter kept growing and growing. I didn’t feel like I could relate to any of these men. As they were risking their lives on the battlefield, I was home trying to piece myself together again. By the time dessert was served, it got all too much for me. I decided I needed to get some air and so I walked outside back to the balcony where I started this evening. As the fresh air comforted me, a man came up next to me on the railing.

“I don’t even get a hello anymore?” Rico said jokingly.

“I didn’t even know you were here, Rico,” I replied. That wasn’t actually true. I saw Rico as I first arrived, but I decided it wasn’t best to speak with him. 

“Oh, no worries then. I’m glad we can talk now though. I’ve been worrying about you ever since you came back home. Is everything ok with you, Harry?”

“I’m doing okay, Rico,” 

“Seems like it,” Rico said sarcastically. There was a moment of silence before Rico began to speak again. 

 “You know after you left, the war didn’t change. We still fought the same enemies, every day, sunrise to sunset. The battalion had the same song we sang. We didn’t win the war because you weren’t there, Harry. In fact, we won the war because you were there. You helped us fight of course, but even after you left you still helped us. The battalion found motivation in your story. It fueled us to fight harder. Everyone here today is happy to see you, I’m sure of it.” Rico then took a pause before backing up from the railing. As Rico began to head back inside I turned to him.

“You guys really still sang Maybe after I left?” I asked.

“Yes, every day when we got ready,” Rico replied as he moved back to the railing. Rico and I stayed outside the rest of the night, just talking to each other about all the things that have happened since we last saw each other. At that point, I truly felt welcomed.

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