In one of Teiko Yonaha-Tursi’s earliest memories, she’s on a mission that gets interrupted. Walking barefoot through a lush green field in Itoman, Okinawa, Yonaha-Tursi—then just Teiko Yonaha—stops suddenly and starts jumping up and down. Her little legs were attacked by fat red ants.
“Okinawa is a very hot and humid island,” said Yonaha-Tursi, now a grandmother, retired social worker, reporter, and goodwill ambassador for Okinawa who lives in New Jersey. “So all these dead bodies became fertilizers.” Corpses decaying after the Battle of Okinawa offered extra nutrients, so the grasses were thriving, obscuring the ant colony that she had trampled.