Remembering Pearl Harbor

Last month I stood over the rusting hull of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor.  Julie and I had made the trip to Hawaii to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.  Our final destination was the island of Kauai but I couldn’t stand traveling that far and not visit Pearl Harbor.  The extra day to our trip and added expense of an island hopper flight was well worth the experience.

When you walk around the very crowded visiting area of the Pearl Harbor center, the whole experience is sobering. People speak only in hushed tones and 70 years after the surprise attack by the Empire of Japan there is still a real sense of sacred death that permeates the atmosphere.  One personal highlight was the chance meeting of Alfred Rodrigues, a surviving Navy sailor of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  He was a true gentleman as we met and discussed family and he graciously signed a copy of his war diary for my father.

We had tickets for a 10:00 am tour which began with a video presentation that did a great job explaining the role of the United States in World War II and specifically the south Pacific.  The events surrounding the bombing of Pearl Harbor were clearly portrayed in haunting fashion.  Our group then exited the theatre to board a boat which took us to the USS Arizona Memorial.  This I will never forget.  Standing over the remnants of this once proud battleship, you can smell the strong odor of oil still leaking from the hull of the ship.  Oil still slicks the surface of the water and occasionally you can still see air bubbles escaping this watery tomb.  It was very surreal and very sensory.

I thought a lot about the 2,300+ Americans who died that day.  The 9/11 of another generation.  Lives lost defending the frontier of United States territory.

So this is what I remember today, on Memorial Day 2012.  I think everybody should endeavor to visit the great locations of American conflict.  Ground Zero, Gettysburg, the Alamo, Pearl Harbor, just to name a few.  They give you a real sense that there was much more to the American story that came before you.  There has been a foundation laid that you and I now stand upon.  A foundation of blood, sweat, tears, and precious life.

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