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Letters About Literature National Winners 2008

Honorable Mentions, Level 2: Anna Priore

Dear Mr. Larson,

As I was sauntering through the tightly packed shelves of my town library, I came across your book A Long March Home. I am an avid reader of anything from the WWII era, and from the minute I read the first page my life was changed. I was so intrigued by your description of the Japanese soldiers, the long, painful, hungry march, and your struggle to survive that I read the whole book in about a day. I was anxious when the Japanese first captured your unit, and everything but the few clothes on your back was taken from you. I was shocked when you mentioned how the enemy tortured prisoners, and of how some men were brutally executed on the spot. I was amazed at how brave you were in the face of death, and wondered how you could keep going while your comrades stumbled and never got up. I hardly know anything about Bataan, but your struggles taught me a lot of important values, such as stamina, perseverance, and hope. In many ways, I could relate to your story in my life; like being afraid and feeling hopelessly lost and alone. I was even more astonished to find out that you are from the same Minnesota town as I am, although we have never met.

Before I read your book, I had never been very close to my only living grandfather, who landed on Normandy beach during the D-Day invasion and fought in both the European and Pacific theatres. Over a thousand miles separate us from each other, and he never seemed to want to talk about the war or anything he'd done in it. Reading your book made me realize what a great sacrifice these men, including my grandfather, made for our country, and it seemed that no one appreciated what he had done. After summoning up some courage, I asked him a few questions, and was surprised how happy he was to answer them. As it turned out, I was the only one of his six grandchildren who'd ever asked him about his time overseas. We would spend hours at the kitchen table just talking about all sorts of things; the food in the Army, combat boots, and the famous M1 Garand rifles. He proceeded to give me a box of all his medals and dog tags, which he wouldn't give to my father, his son, when he was a little boy. This even convinced him and my grandmother to make a rare trip from New York to Minnesota to visit us. We watched my favorite TV show, Combat! together and he gave me two pictures of himself taken in Normandy when he was 18 years old. Now we have a strong bond between us.

Your book inspired me to talk to my grandfather about the war while I still had the time. One thousand World War Two veterans die every day, and my grandfather is eight-two. We, as the younger generation, must take advantage of this opportunity to learn from the men and women who have gone before us before it's too late. We must appreciate the sacrifices they've made, and realize that what they did was the most valuable gift anyone could give to our country. Thank you for this insight into World War Two, and for enriching my life with your story.


Anna Priore