In these late summer months of intermittent rains and heat, we mark another anniversary - a significant one - of the final climax of World War II, the most destructive military action ever seen on this planet at the time it was fought.
Filmed interviews with aged veterans who survived, and look back with both pride and sorrow at the events which shaped their youth, are regularly seen on TV and internet, reminding those of us born after the cataclysm of the debt we owe to those who risked everything so that we might live after them in a free land.
And regardless of periodic and almost predictable political upheavals, the United States remains free, our citizens able to vote and determine who leads and who follows once every four years.
It is not an easy process, nor is America in the 2000's an easy country to inhabit. A nation of individuals, we make dire mistakes, both in our elections and in our diplomacy.
But we retain what every army since the Revolution has fought to win and keep: freedom to choose. I was grateful for that freedom a number of years back, when I visited military bases to train in communication, and more appreciative still for the flexibility to reschedule a class to a later date, on a day when none of us knew that the base where I taught would be shortly firebombed. And it was, devastatingly and permanently changing yet again our view of who and what America is in the world, and how we are seen in other places.
After the attack, which my students and I survived, I listened to a call heard dimly for many years and attended seminary.
On campus, I was greeted with some skepticism by professors, for their school was established to train missionaries, and I was much older than most of its students. No matter - they shrugged, doubting I would go the distance or do well (in my studies of ancient Greek, they were right), but we struggled on together for three years, and as part of the core curriculum, I was assigned a class in Old Testament taught by a neatly dressed professor who had been a Kamikaze pilot toward the end of the Big War.
He and I, for some reason, did not immediately take to one another. Learning of the consulting work I still did for the U.S. military outside of class, Dr. Toshiro's eyes flashed and I could see the Old Japan in his face. He still knew the Bushido, that ancient and dire code of Japanese warriors which dictated victory or death, even if death was from suicide, to avoid disgrace.
After a few brusque exchanges between us to determine why I was there and what I expected to learn from his course, a nervous fellow student suddenly said something in Japanese and Dr. T subsided and moved on.
But the Kamikaze still lived, and I learned later, as we got to know one another better, that he had been a child during the war and toward its awful end, had been commanded to fly as a pilot in one of the remaining Zero's to crash and die as he exploded one of America's warships.
He was 12 years old, and expendable, but like the other boys in his class, he was ready.
His instructor showed him how to take off, aim and maintain altitude until a target was sighted, then to descend with maximum speed for greater destructive impact, killing the enemy carrier and everyone on it. To fail to do so was dishonor. He had been chosen, and he would not fail.
The boys waited to be heros, but not for long. As he turned 13, his unit "was the next to fly. I believed in the Emperor and was devastated to learn he was not a god."
After the surrender, with much of his family dead, the teenager wandered the streets, hungry and rootless, until an American missionary invited him into a Methodist service. Japan gets very cold in winter, and the church's meeting place was warm.
He went in and his life became different, every day after that first meeting with people from an alien culture who introduced him to a kinder, more welcoming deity and a man named Jesus who had already done the dying for him.
Here he was years after, teaching in the seminary, close to being an aged man, still fierce and determined in defense of his adopted land and the Christian God in whom his faith was now unshakeable.
Early on in our relationship, I passed down a long hall with instructors' offices on one side, each bearing messages of love and prayers to bless their students. The last door was Toshiro's, and it bore the bold inscription "OSAMA - WE GET YOU!"
And he meant it. I really believe Dr. Toshiro's militant prayers had something to do with the later result and am honestly glad he fights in spirit for our side now. One never wants to mess with a Kamikaze.
Linda Berry is a Northsider.