A family plot directly adjacent to the Battalion Mess Hall
Thursday, November 21, 1968
Sumo didn’t receive much mail. His young Japanese wife spoke little English and couldn’t write letters without the help of an interpreter. She was taking an English class, but communicating by mail from Japan was difficult.
At the afternoon mail call, we all got letters. This had never happened, and it created a jovial mood in our hooch. Fernando received a letter from his father with news of his success in getting approval to build a second restaurant in El Paso. Reb got a letter from Margaret, and my letter from Jenny talked of her plans for Thanksgiving at home in Laguna Beach.
Sumo opened his letter and was grief stricken with word of his father-in-law’s death. He had been ill for some time, but the family was secretive about his condition. His failing health was the result of liver cancer attributed to radiation exposure from Hiroshima. The atomic blast was over 20 miles away, but the fallout was downwind and the “ash” was not known to be a health threat at the time.
The opportunity for family emergency leave was available, but Sumo chose not to take it. He wasn’t sure of the cultural complications regarding this family death (there was no invitation to attend the funeral service).
Our joyful disposition was dampened by this revelation, but Sumo did not want us feeling sorry for him. So he brightened, “Let’s have some ice cream.”