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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Honoring Those Who Served 70 Years Ago

Sometimes being a good citizen is listening to other good citizens.  Over the last three days, we have had that very opportunity.

We have heard the stories of Pearl Harbor survivors and veterans from World War II.  What a wonderful example of living history.  Our first day, we were at Pearl Harbor and met with six survivors and we felt so blessed to hear their stories.  The next day we headed out for a small museum that was written up in an old tour guide book.  We thought we were heading to a place to learn how to make leis and other Hawaiian crafts.  When we arrived at the exact address the museum had closed several years ago, but to our surprise we found Pearl Harbor survivors sitting out in a lounge area to a hotel talking with passers-by.  We were so excited to have these men to sit and chat with as if we were in our living room!  Then tonight we watched the same men as they drove by on parade floats!  The boys were so happy to hear these men call out to them as if we were old friends!  This was like no other parade we had ever been to in our lives.  The people were cheering...the parade participants were coming right up to us...everyone felt like they were a part of the event.  I wish I had gotten a picture of the 90yo veteran who danced down the street to begin the parade...he must have been thinking about his heyday back in the 1940's!

Here are a few of the stories, I was able to jot down when I returned to the hotel:

Pat Duncan was only 18yo when he boarded the USS Raleigh as a bugler.  He is convinced that they were the first ship hit as he watched the USS Utah (historically known as the first ship hit) attacked after he was asked to sound the alarm.  Unfortunately, his bugle had been filled with water as his ship was tipped up on its end.  They were first hit by a torpedo and then later hit by a bomb.  After Pearl Harbor, he remained in the military as a quarter master.

John Tate was on the USS St. Louis.  He was originally from California.  He was sitting with Harold Mayo who was at the Marine base, Kanoehe, as an A&E mechanic.  He said the Japanese were hitting the planes before they even realized what was happening.  He was from a little town of Gloveland.  They described it as big city met small town USA...but both of these men were faced with the same tragedy and had to cope with the reality of war.  Neither of them had come back to Pearl Harbor, visiting for the first time in 70 years.

Ray Garland was also in the Marine Corps serving on the USS Tennessee.  He was a quiet man who did not like to tell his story.  He told us that he saw the planes coming into the bay but there was not enough time to act before they were hit.  He could not believe how many planes came into the bay to attack. 

Jim Doyle was an aerial photographer on the USS Lexington at the time of the attack.  He continued to take photographs until one day he went out on a mission and woke up in an Australian hospital with a hot rag on his brain.  The swelling was so bad that the doctors could not operate.  He was relieved of duty at this time.  You could tell by the way he spoke of this that he had not wanted to give up the fight for his country.  He was a very strong man even at 90yo.  He was remembering those days as if they were yesterday. 

Frank Mack was at Hickman field during the attack.

Stan Swartz was at Wheeler Army Airfield.

Andrews was a young man of 18yo from Pennsylvania when he came to the islands as a mule driver.  Less than a year later, he found himself moving about 2000 animals around the island.  Then all of a sudden, he went from mule driver to body recovery detail.  He said the first day the bodies were covered with sheets, however, the second day he was told to recover bodies from the bay.  He is now 89yo and hoped that he would die soon because all of his loved ones had passed on.  We told him that he must still be alive to tell the story.  I think he appreciated that because he walked away a little prouder.

We also spoke to three other men who were in a historical book.  They were autographing books and we have their stories written.  If you would like to hear more, send me a note and I would be glad to share.

We are so pleased that we were a part of this day in history.  They say these men are in the sunset of their lives.  Even a sunset has a story to tell in the colorful beauty that exists in the sky.  These men had their own colorful stories to tell.  Not only the story of Pearl Harbor, but how they continued in the military and then adjusted back to civilian life after the war.  It also helps us to prepare for the next day to come as it soothes us into a calming rest.  The stories they were able to tell, not just of that day 70 years ago but the stories of hope after this attack, help us in our own lives.  It will be a day we will never forget.  May we all remember what war brings to the world and that the answer is peace.  Just as the cranes presented by these Japanese women symbolize. 

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