Sunday, February 27, 2011

Captain Jay J. Navin

For our beautiful , generous and loving friend Mary...

Before we left for Manila, Mr. Man talked with his oldest and dearest friend Donna, who lives in Portland with her wife Mary. Upon learning that we intended to visit the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Donna mentioned that Mary’s grandfather, Jay Navin, died in the Philippines during WWII and was interned there. When a serviceman died in the Philippines, their family was given the option of having the body returned to the United States or being buried among their comrades in the cemetery in Manila. Mary’s family chose to have Captain Navin lay at rest with his follow servicemen.

The cemetery, located in the former U.S. Army reservation of Fort William McKinley, is gorgeous; 152 acres of lush grass, trees and tropical plantings. The white Italian marble crosses, and Stars of David, stand out against green grass—that beautiful shade of green we often associate with spring here in the States. Peaceful and quiet, it is pristinely clean, manicured, and well maintained. As you look out over the landscape of crosses—17,202 of them—you are struck by the sheer beauty of them as they continue on and on and on against the backdrop of the city. This beauty, and the lives, honor, courage, and love of country they represent make a strong impact. You can only stand in silence and pray that you can live up to their sacrifice.

We are met by a Filipina woman (whose name I’m sad to admit that I can’t remember) who takes us on a tour and then finds Captain Navin in the database. Amazingly, she is able to take us straight to his grave marker, which is in the first row in this section of the cemetery. From a distance I can see the Star of David among the crosses with the name Jay J. Navin etched into the marble. Surprised, I turn to Mr. Man and ask if he knew that Mary’s grandfather was Jewish. He shakes his head no. Do we have the name right? This has to be him. Privately, we feel a connection to a man we never had the honor of meeting.

We jump out of the golf cart and snap a couple of quick pictures before our guide tells us to wait. She takes dark gray sand and rubs it into the etching so that the Captain Navin’s name stands out starkly again the white marble and then wipes away the excess with a wet cloth. We take several pictures and are pleased at finding this beautiful resting place.


  1. Kelly, I can't thank you and David enough for your time and thoughtfulness in doing this, or for your beautiful words and description of your experience there. It means so much to me and my family. You've touched us all deeply, and given us something we could never have had without your efforts. You have our love and gratitude,

  2. This is Art, Mary Tegger's dad, and son of Jay Navin. I appreciate what you have done so much.
    The photos, your thoughts, and narrative are so moving that I just stopped and contemplated them for a long time after viewing them. I'm still thinking about them the next day. My mother wouldn't talk to me about my dad; they had not been getting along before his death. I have been gleaning what I could from the Defense Department's records, and just recently a cousin I didn't know of wrote me, we visited, and he sent me pictures I had not seen. So your photos and narrative means a great deal to me. If I can, I will forward the page, or at least the link to my cousin.
    So thank you so much.

  3. This is Art & Mary's cousin Gary. It's wonderful to see these photos and to read your commentary. Thank you very much.
    Jay Navin was my uncle. My mom was extremely fond of Jay who was her older brother. His death at the beginning of WWII was an event that she never really got over.
    When my wife and I went on our honeymoon to Hawaii, we made sure to stop at the National Cemetery on Oahu to find Jay's grave. Needless to say, we were surprised to find that Jay was not in Hawaii, something that my mom was not aware of. A little investigation told us that he was in Manila. So my dad wrote the army asking for a photo of Jay's headstone. He was sent a beautiful photo of a cross headstone. According to my mom, her family was not very religious, however, they were Jewish. We've even managed to locate the gravesites of my mom's grandparents in a small Jewish cemetery in Southern Germany, but that's another story. So dad wrote back to the army telling them of the mistake. They immediately rectified the situation as you see.
    So once again, thank you for taking the time to do this. I really appreciate it.
    Gary Gilbert