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SXU student uses grandfather for inspiration for future ambitions


Everyone has a calling in life, some find it quickly while others take years, maybe even decades to find it. For Chris Thach, student and Schmitt Scholar at Saint Xavier University (SXU), his calling was nothing more than his daily hobby that fueled his passion to make it a career.

Thach is digital illustrator and aspires to be a high school art teacher, while also working in the video game industry as a concept artist/illustrator, who will one day publish novels. He has always been an avid fan of comics, specifically graphic novels. Though only a junior, Thach has already planned his senior seminar project for the next academic year, which will give him a chance to showcase his graphic artist talent, while also expressing a story.

"I am a writer and part of my senior seminar is writing an actual novel based on the wartime experiences of my grandfather, through fictional characters," said Thach. "But words can only do so much, so I wanted to show a more visceral and more poignant expression of that reality."

Thach never knew his grandfather personally, as he died decades before he was born, but through the art of storytelling, their connection was made.

"My grandfather, Isamu Tsukino, served as captain of the Dai-Hachi Independent Infantry Regiment," said Thach. "As a young man working part-time as a train conductor and co-owner to a bakery, he was conscripted and sent to China to fight. Through the eight years, he was in the war (1937-1945), he wrote poems and letters extensively to his wife whenever he could. Unfortunately, he did not know it at the time of his surrender at the end of the war, but Nagasaki was bombed with an atomic bomb, killing all of his relatives, including his wife and child. Finding nothing left for him in Japan but grief, he was invited by a friend to move to Vietnam. There he met my grandmother and had three children. Adopting Vietnam as his new home, he took on an administrative role in one of the local villages of Tra Vinh province following the war's end. He died in the early 1960's, assassinated by communist insurgents due to his pro-US beliefs, which spurred my father's allegiance to the United States."

Growing up, Thach's father believed it was important for his father's story to be passed on; he shared countless stories and even shared his father's journal with Thach. The connections made through verbal history lead Thach to discover a theme in his artwork, a theme of patriotism, defeat, and reality. It is through his graphic artwork that Thach hopes to bring to light a new side of history, the side often not addressed in history books across the nation.

"I want to show a point-of-view which is rarely discussed, the lives of the Japanese soldiers and citizens of the World War II," said Thach. "Too often do we dismiss and generalize a people for the actions of their government or from the blindness of hindsight. We think of German as synonymous with Nazi and Japanese with Kamikazes and banzai charges and the atrocities committed against the Chinese, but do we deface and demonize the entirety of the American people for the crimes of American soldiers at My Lai? We don't because we understand that a people are more than a collective. Sixty million people died in World War II; these numbers are not just a statistic, they are a face, a life of which a mere statistical analysis cannot give credence to the sheer loss that each has. That is why I am creating this book and comic. Because if we see the world as black and white instead of a beautiful and terribly confusing mix of human gray, we are doomed to have the mistakes of the past befall us; for those people were us and we are them."

The concept of storytelling proves to be a huge part of our nation's history and is alive within each member of society. Thach prides himself on his ability to showcase his patriotism towards America and the life of his grandfather through his artwork. Through his ambitious goals, he hopes to bring to light the part of history that is left untold by the masses; a story that was shared by none other than his own grandfather.