Island Soldier

This film opens with a man and his 20-year-old son out in a small boat fishing off Kosrae. It closes with the man fishing, this time alone. What has happened to the son? That’s the story behind this unusual visual tale filmed by Nathan Fitch, who served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosrae not long ago.

A Kosraean "Island Soldier."

PVT Nena, Fort Benning GA”

The son did what hundreds of young Micronesians have been doing in recent years. He left his fishing gear and boat, along with his parents and friends and his island way of life, to join the US military. This film follows him, not just to the airport and onto the plane, with his family waving farewell. It takes us through basic training and deployment–behind the scenes where the camera seldom roams–so that we can witness other recruits teasing him about his name and his tiny home island. As we drive with him in his humvee on patrol we can feel tension of the team wondering when the next roadside bomb will explode.

What if something really bad happens? It sometimes does, as anyone who has let his gaze wander over the gallery of photos in the Guam airport, each of them representing an Islander who has lost his life in the military. (Now you can find a similar photo display in the Pohnpei airport as well.) “Island Soldier” provides touching evidence of the effects of such a casualty on the bereaved family. Watching this part of the film jogged memories of a funeral mass I did on Pohnpei a few years ago for a young woman from Chuuk, talented and engaging, who died much too young.

Why, then, do these young islanders rush into the military? Ten years ago we explored this very question in an issue of Micronesian Counselor. We can be sure that the future is no brighter today than it was then. Whatever the risks of the military, they always seem to be outweighed by the rewards: a paying job, education benefits, a group identity, and a strong sense of purpose.

Nathan Fitch promises that his production will be released within our lifetime. He invites all of us to assist in the Kickstarter that he has initiated to raise the funds needed to finish this one-of-a-kind film.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.

Copyright © 2015, WHERESFRAN.ORG, Francis X. Hezel, SJ.