On the morning of December 7th, 1941 the heavy Hawaiian air was broken by the sound of Japanese fighters as they attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor. Japan broke off on-going negotiations with the U.S. by sending waves of fighters, bombers, torpedo planes, aircraft carriers and submarines to brutally attack an unsuspecting United States of America. By the time the attack was over, 2,400 Americans had been killed and almost 1,300 more were wounded. America found herself forced in to a global conflict and the next day, formally declared war on Japan.
Pearl Harbor has always had significance to me because my uncle Bob, a Marine, was stationed there at the time of the attack. He survived Pearl and fought in several battles across the Pacific theater. As a boy I would ask him to tell me about his time in the Corps. I was always particularly interested in Pearl Harbor and what it was like. Each time I would ask about Pearl, his face would become grey, his lower jaw would tighten, his eyes would turn red and glassy and he would simply say “I hope you never have to experience anything like it” and turn away. As I grew older, I stopped asking because I realized how painful it was for him to relive those memories.
I was lucky that my uncle survived Pearl and was around to be a part of my life as I grew up. He was a huge influence on me and was always there to offer guidance and insight. He is the reason I have such a deep love of the outdoors and really helped shape the man I am today. I am blessed to have had so many years with my uncle and to have learned so much from him.
Not everyone is so fortunate. As my oldest son “the Muskrat” gets older, he won’t have the opportunity to go to one of his uncle for advice and guidance. His uncle Luke, also a Marine, was killed in combat in Iraq several years ago. “the Muskrat” was only seven years old when Luke was killed but he still has vivid memories of Luke and speaks of him often. More over, he has very clear memories of learning of Luke’s death and the anguish the entire family went through when it happened. In spite of that, “the Muskrat” has his eyes squarely set on becoming a Recon Marine himself one day. As a father, that makes my stomach churn. It terrifies me that my son, who I love so dearly, may be put in a place not unlike that of Bob or Luke – a place where his safety, his very life may be threatened and the unspeakable could take place. I then try to reconcile those feelings with the understanding that the incredible freedoms we enjoy in this country came at a steep price, a price paid by the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who choose to step in to harms way and stand firm.
I think behind every brave soldier, there are mothers and fathers with churning guts and tear stained cheeks, who in spite of the fear, are indescribably proud of the children they have raised – children, willing to sacrifice for an ideal, willing to protect those who can’t protect themselves.
On this day, December 7th, the “date that will live in infamy” as proclaimed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, I ask you to pause and say thank you. Not only those who served at Pearl Harbor, in World War II, or even to the men and women of America’s armed forces throughout history. We also need to say thank you to the parents who give so much – the Gold Star Families, parents of those who return wounded and every mother or father who has watched their child set off down the road to boot camp. Our nation is forever in your debt.
USS Arizona Memorial
Thanks to The United States Marine Corps. on Flickr