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Pearl Harbor Day: Remember, and Celebrate

Pearl Harbor Day

I’d like to pause today, in the middle of the Month of Eating Dangerously, and remember a special group of Americans who served so that we can celebrate in peace this Holiday season. I’m talking about the American soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians in Hawaii who defended against an unprovoked attack, many giving their lives while doing so. It’s now 68 years on, and soon there won’t be any living who were eye witness to, or direct participant in, that horrifying event.

It wasn’t a battle, as such. It was a massacre.

My Civics instructor in high school was a young sailor, sitting inside one of the great ships docked along Battleship row. He had gone ashore early in the morning to get a newspaper, and was sitting on top of the Tennessee’s magazine when the attack began. He was lucky, in a way; the Tennessee was the least damaged of the capital ships in Pearl Harbor. He fought valiantly all that day, first against the enemy, then against the appalling damage. He was forever changed, and he seldom spoke to anyone on Pearl Harbor day after that. The one exception I know of: He spent two hours detailing that day to our civics class in 1968. He did that exactly once, as I understand it. He was better after that, but silent on his experiences.

I wish now I’d had a video recorder during that session; his record of the commencement of hostilities for the U.S. is now gone forever.

I had the honor of visiting Pearl Harbor in 1986, and again in 2008. I was moved each time, and so I think a lot about what we have, and what we could have lost, had things gone differently that day and in the following months and years. Before those visits, December 7th was “just another day” to me. Except for one thing: It was the day I always bottled my wine while I was in graduate school. A party, of sorts, with school friends over to help. (I never got quite as much wine as I thought I was supposed to, somehow.) Now I raise a glass in salute, over dinner, on this fateful day. And I reflect.

So when you’re having a good time this week, and on though New Year’s, I would like you to pause a moment and remember. You needn’t be somber about the whole thing; I’m not asking you get all maudlin on me! However, we enjoy what we have today because of men and women like those who experienced Pearl Harbor. And many other similar events, of course; but they all have other days…

Enjoy the (Pearl Harbor Remembrance) Heat!

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