On the morning of December 7, 1941, as many of the men and women stationed there slept in their beds the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. When the attack, which lasted just over 2 hours was finally over, 2,402 had lost their lives and another 1,282 were wounded. As news spread to the states it came as a complete shock to an entire nation. In FDR’s speech declaring war against Japan on December 8, 1941, he spoke the words that still echo today ; ‘December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy’ – and as a nation mourned it also prepared to go into battle against the Japanese Empire.
I myself lived in a household where both my father and grandfather served in the United States Army. I was always very aware of the importance of remembering the events that led us to where we are today as a country. I was grateful for that knowledge and always assumed that we all had that same grasp of history. As I grew older I was saddened to learn that many simply do not understand the sacrifices that so many have made in order for us to enjoy the freedoms so many take for granted. Both my father and grandfather we very active in the veteran’s organizations such as the V.F.W., American Legion and D.A.V – and through their involvement I was fortunate enough to have met survivors of many of the great battles this country was part of, including Pearl Harbor. I remember talking with one such survivor; Charles Tucker, and listening to story after story of just how much chaos there was during those few short hours. His voice would shake and weaken as he himself would recall those terrifying moments. Just a teenager, he said he felt a complete spectrum of emotions during the fight and the days following. Happiness for surviving. Guilt because he survived. Sadness for the loss of those he knew. Anger at those responsible and pride for being an American.
Today, many of the veteran groups try and keep the memory alive with ceremonies across the country. I was humbled to see the memorials of Pearl Harbor, where the ships still lie today. When you see the oil rising to the top from the wreckage below it’s an eerie reminder that some gave all for the price of peace and freedom that day. We are the greatest nation of the world not because of the technology we hold or the wealth we display but because of the great men and women that have molded it and made it that way. The only way to ensure we stay the great nation we are is for each of us to do our best everyday to share its history with the younger generations and never let them forget. Never let them forget that freedom isn’t always free and the roots of those that came before us are deep and strong.
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