When it first aired, my brother and I made something of a ritual of watching The Pacific. We were both fans of Band of Brothers, for starters, but as it went on, I started to realize there was something more at work.
My maternal grandparents met in the South Pacific during the war, on Saipan specifically. Randy was a Williams College philosophy major who’d joined the Marines, an Intelligence officer who’d been contemplating an acting career; Bev was a volunteer for the Red Cross who’d gotten a pilot’s license and lied about her age to serve overseas. Aside from a few classic stories – the crowd favorite being Japanese soldiers surrendering to Bev’s donut truck – neither of them talked about it much, at least to the grandchildren. Nevertheless it was a part of their story, and when we heard about The Pacific coming up, it went without saying that we’d watch it.
We watched it together, my brother and I, just the two of us, catching dinner and chatting beforehand, not talking much during or after. We did this for 10 weeks straight as I recall, every Sunday. He was still living in our grandparents’ house at the time, which added something to it as well, but no matter where we watched it, it wouldn’t have been much different. As we watched I realized I was feeling the tension more keenly, feeling the emotion more deeply, and it took me a few weeks to figure out why. Watching it felt like being with them again, trying to understand some of what they’d seen and survived. Even if it was different people, different battles, it was close enough to feel that sense of kinship. Neither of us mentioned it, but it was plain both of us were affected.
Now I’m watching The Pacific again, solo this time (Meg doesn’t like war stories much), in preparation for an upcoming project, and once again I feel it. Objectively, I don’t like the series as much as Band of Brothers – curious as it might sound, in focusing on three specific Marines it somehow felt less personal than the ensemble cast of Band of Brothers, as if the extra attention to a few felt unfair to the others around them – but emotionally I just can’t help feeling it. I tear up often as I watch it, and it makes me miss them both like crazy. Soldier’s stories always grab me, but put on the Marines and I just about lose it every time, even before my grandfather passed. The heroism, the reflexives selflessness, the ability to endure what many have and none should have to, it reaches out and grabs me and doesn’t let me go.
I’m really glad I’ve got this project coming up, because I think I needed to tell some stories here, to try to take what it was that they went through and put it through my own lens. When I can say more, rest assured I will. Until then, though, I’ll be watching and taking notes, enjoying my own little communion.
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