Dr. Aaron Lazare, the former chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and author of the book On Apology, finds that apologies are “the most profound of human interactions.” When used well, the words can heal humiliation — by lifting anger and guilt and allowing splintered bonds to mend.”
Lester Tenney, a San Diego resident, felt that receiving the apology from Japan was so important that he consented to experimental heart surgery barely five months before he was to travel to Japan to lead a delegation of American former POWs of Japan.
As a POW, both military and civilian guards repeatedly told him that as a surrendered soldier he was "lower than a dog." He should have killed himself, they believed.
He knew he had to be there to accept the Japanese government's official apology for their mistreatment and slave labor. It was an act not only to rest the demons of his PTSD, but also to give meaning to our peace with Japan, and hope to future Americans who may become POWs.
Tenney, a Bataan Death March survivor, slaved nearly three years in a dangerous Mitsui coal mine. He suffered malnutrition, unsanitary conditions, poor medical care, and continuous beatings.
He remembers never receiving packages from home or any of the Red Cross boxes sent to the camp. After liberation, the POWs found a warehouse full of the undistributed Red Cross boxes. Thus, over the past few years, he has organized his retirement community to send "care packages from home" to U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this video, Tenney talks about his surgery, his hopes for his trip to Japan, and his experience as a POW of Japan. His wish to have Mitsui & Co., LTD, one of Japan's biggest and oldest conglomerates, apologize to him for his slave labor and the abuse he suffered from their employees is yet to be realized. Fortunately, Scipps Memorial Hospital has made it possible for him to maybe live long enough to receive this crucial apology.