Greetings From… Mobile, Alabama

Starting service in 1882, The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge 45-mile ride is considered one of the top ten scenic train rides in the world.

Stories from eight years of living on the road in America

By Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

Mobile, Alabama

A veteran. Seated alone at a table stacked with books. Well decorated. The bearing of a diplomat. 

We were in the gift shop at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Alabama. It was just my son Harrison and I – the girls weren’t impressed with our plan to tour the 680’  long WWII battleship that serves as the main attraction in the park. 

But a soldier with a story? That battleship wasn’t going anywhere soon. We walked over and made introductions. 

His name was Colonel Glenn Frazier. 

And his story?

It started out like a Hollywood adventure movie. Jilted lovers. A Harley Davidson ridden into a bar. Chased out with shotguns. Joining the Army to escape.

All at 16 years old. In 1941.

Frazier was deployed to the Philippines, serving under General Douglas MacArthur. 

From there Frazier’s story turned gruesome.

The U.S. ended up surrendering the Bataan Peninsula to the Japanese. Frazier was one of the approximately 75,000 men forced to make the “Bataan Death March” to Japanese prison camps.

Their captors treated them brutally, starving and beating them. Many captives were mercilessly bayoneted along the side of the road.

Frazier survived the march. And further torture in the prison camps. He made it home. When we met, he was the last known survivor of the Bataan Death March.

A movie would end the story there. Happily ever after and all that.

Real life goes on.

Frazier had nightmares. He developed a drinking problem. And a fierce hatred for his captors.

Just seeing a Japanese car on the road would put him into a rage.

The hatred went on for years, sabotaging his health. And his relationships.

There are many topics Colonel Frazier could school an audience on. Sacrifice. Endurance. Survival. Heroism. 

But the subject I remember most from our gift-shop conversation?

Forgiveness.

Harrison Boyink with Colonel Glenn Frazier, Mobile, Alabama in 2011.

Frazier met a Japanese nurse training to be a pastor. She washed his feet. She prayed for him. She reconnected Frazier to the God that he gave his life to at 13. 

“God made a way for me to forgive the Japanese,” he said. “And the nightmares finally stopped. I could finally sleep. My health got much better.”

We never did tour that battleship. We used our money to buy a book from Colonel Frazier instead.

World War II veteran and former prisoner of war, Colonel Glenn Frazier, died September 15, 2018, in Daphne, Alabama, at the age of 94. His autobiography, Hells Guest, remains available on Amazon.com.