Tag Archive | "Pearl Harbor Day"

An Invitation to History

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On December 7, 2010 I — a veteran of World War II — will host a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Service at the VFW Post 2445 in Maple Shade, New Jersey; the event will begin at 11:00 AM, Eastern Standard Time.  This is an open invitation to all who wish to attend: veterans, families of veterans, and students both young and old who would like to experience genuine accounts of what transpired as that fateful conflict erupted and as it waged on for four long years.


The program will begin promptly with the posting of the colors of our proud American flag, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  Sung by the Steinhauer School choir, the National Anthem will follow.


After our Anthem, the host will present a history lesson, centering upon the events that President Franklin D. Roosevelt termed, “A day that will live in infamy.”  That day was December 7, 1941.  On that fateful day, 360 Japanese aircraft took off from aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean.  They then launched a sudden but well-planned attack upon the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, leaving most of our ships destroyed and many, many casualties. While peace negotiations were being conducted in Washington, DC, this sneak attack plunged America into World War II.


The Steinhauer School students and other attendees will then hear a recorded, unadulterated speech by President Roosevelt, as he had addressed Congress and the nation-at-large that a state of war existed between the Empire of Japan and the United States of America.


The program will then continue with oratory from a Maple Shade Township representative and others who well recall Pearl Harbor Day.  These remembrances will be followed by The Navy Hymn, including a rifle salute and Taps to honor those who had served in our armed forces, including our fallen soldiers.




The ceremony will end with the Steinhauer choir singing America the Beautiful, and will conclude with a closing speech by the host.


For the past ten years, I have conducted this ceremony in the hope that the children of Maple Shade will hear the unvarnished truth about this war as we move ever further into the world of “political correctness.”


History is our legacy from the past.  It has shaped the society that we have become today, and the tenets that we pass on to future generations.  America’s culture and history are both irreplaceable sources of inspiration and indeed, life.  Remembrance is a good thing, for sacrifice without remembrance is meaningless.

A Pearl Harbor Day Apology

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Pearl Harbor Day

The island of Oahu, in Hawaii’s archipelago, is a paradise of flowering trees, warm ocean breezes, and pristine beaches.  But its bay, Pearl Harbor, is testimony to one of the blackest and yet most commemorated days in American History.  On December 7, 1941, the harbor, which was home to our naval vessels and military personnel, was destroyed.  Thus were we plunged into the four-year international conflict known as World War II that claimed the lives of many American soldiers.  Christened “a date which will live in infamy” by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor Day was established to honor those brave souls, our military, who perished in the holocaust in Oahu’s bay.

 

More than sixty-seven years have passed since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and each year, it seems that our nation’s collective memory of this momentous event grows ever dimmer.  There are, however, a few of us who refuse to let this commemorative day and its meaning die.

 

Our disregard of Pearl Harbor Day is indicative of the state of our country.  We have become a nation of greedy people, putting our needs first and God and country second; a nation that allows political leaders to sell their votes to the highest bidder concerning issues that effect its citizens, without contemplation or the consent of those citizens.

 

Today we live in troubled times rife with economic woes, high rates of unemployment, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a raging national heath care debate. We are barraged by media hype to the point where the average citizen is overwhelmed by the critical choices that he or she must make, to the point where many remain numb and impotent to bring about positive change.  The pioneer spirit in America is on the ropes and struggling to survive.

 

The leadership needed to take us out of troubled waters is non-existent.  As American citizens, we must take up the reins and restore our nation to its glorious past.  Where are the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, and the Lincolns of our time?  Where are the Jack and Bobby Kennedys and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s?   Our society is steeped in the mindset of “Let somebody else take care of it,” but “somebody else” never does it.  So we sit back in silence as our nation’s mores are challenged and stomped upon.

 

On this Pearl Harbor Day, 2009, I would like to offer an apology to the men and women who gave their lives and are still entombed in the USS Arizona in the deceptively calm waters off Oahu, and in the U.S. military cemeteries on native and foreign soil.  I apologize to those who died in the jungles, on the beaches, and in the deep waters of the Pacific that marked the sacrifices they made in helping to free Europe from a monster and protecting the freedom and safety of Americans. 

 

Please forgive us for not taking care of the country for which you died.

Rainbow Tears

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Rainbow in Water

(Artwork is by Christara Copyrighted © http://my.desktopnexus.com/christara/)
(Link to artwork: http://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/27127/)

 

Seven years ago, I was dragged quite reluctantly into Pearl Harbor on Oahu, one of the bright gems in Hawaii’s gorgeous necklace of islands.  I was there with my husband to celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, just as the first anniversary of 9/11 was looming upon the horizon.  As a New Yorker deeply affected by 9/11 and whose youth, indeed spirit, was marked by Vietnam, I wanted no further reminders of war, particularly on a long journey meant to be joyous.  But my husband insisted that, as Americans, it was our duty to visit Pearl Harbor.  And so, we did.


The film shown to all visitors on the first leg of their journey through the harbor left me sobbing.  I tried to leave after the film, but my husband advised me that, in years to come, I would be sorry if I did.  As it turned out, he would have been right.


We were ferried across the bay to a floating structure that seemed at first glance like something out of the original Star Trek series.   This pure white structure rocked gently upon the water like a futuristic subway car.  It was long and its ceiling curved.  The deepest part of the arc was at the ceiling’s middle; its two ends bowed upward at a rather sharp curve.


Our military escort had explained that the monument had been designed to depict World War II.  The deep arc denoted Pearl Harbor Day, the lowest point in our nation’s history during this long, bloody battle, while the soaring ends represented our nation’s final triumph over our enemies.   And then our escort startled me badly by explaining that we were about to visit a mass grave.


Well below the monument, at the bottom of the bay, sat the U.S.S. Arizona.  Other naval ships had been bombed and destroyed on that infamous December 7th, 1941, but the Arizona had taken the biggest hit.  More lives had been lost aboard her than on any other vessel, and some of the bodies had never been recovered.


I had been to the National Cemetery at Arlington years before.  The sight of so very many small white headstones, stretching for what seemed infinity, was a terrible thing to behold.  But somehow, the chapel aboard the monument in Pearl Harbor was worse.  Eternal flames flickered there, beside urns of fresh flowers brought daily by visitors and the loved ones of those who had gone down with the Arizona.  Above these remembrances on a large white marbled wall were carved the names of the soldiers, those who had died during the attack on Pearl Harbor.


To see the same surname three and four and five times in a row was a blow to the gut.  I could not imagine families losing so many loved ones in the blink of an eye.  It was too close to that raw wound, 9/11, for me.  I ached to be gone from that floating tomb, but was compelled to remain there until the skiff returned to the island at its appointed time.  As I waited, my lips moved silently over every name on the wall, as did my husband’s.  Not to do so would have been disrespectful.  I thought of all the wars that had occurred during my lifetime, in which our nation had been engaged — far too many wars.  In my heart’s eye, I saw the Twin Towers fall again like vertical dominoes in a terrible cloud.   And I recalled an old and painfully truthful song by Sting, “History Will Teach Us Nothing.”


Desperate to escape this horror, I made my way to the railing as quickly as decorum allowed.   I looked over the side and watched as fresh flowers, tossed from the hands of other visitors, landed upon the water in honor of our dead.  But as I peered more closely, I saw small rainbows blooming on the surface of the sea.   They were globules of oil, escaping from the Arizona.  Sixty-one years after she had gone down fighting, the oil in her tanks was still rising, gently kissing the surface of the water.  Day by day, minute by minute, drop by drop, they rose and bloomed, then dissipated and died.  But even as they expired, new rainbows appeared, dark upon the water, only to die and be replaced by others.   “Rainbow tears,” I breathed to my husband, who watched in horror and fascination.


I am no physicist, but I questioned how, sixty-one years later, these rainbow tears could still be shed by the ship below my feet, holding many still entombed within her.  “How much oil does such a vessel hold?  Should not the tears have stopped long before now?” I wondered.


I don’t have the answer to the first question, but I believe I have the answer to the second.  The rainbow tears still bloom above the Arizona as a reminder of the sacrifices of our military, and of the sacrifices of the loved ones they have left behind.


In my heart, I believe that they still bloom as a reminder of the costs of war, well beyond the billions of dollars spent in arms and equipment and the inevitable reparations that we must make to those upon whose lands we wage our battles.  The tears, in my opinion, are a small but definite miracle, a cry from those below to find our way toward peace on the troubled waters of our human existence.


Rainbow Over Pearl Harbor

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