This year, I will be spending Christmas in Hawaii. I’m keeping a promise I made over thirty years ago to a friend. He and I were in the Army together; I was barely twenty, he a little over thirty. Born in 1941, he was an infant when he lost his father, who was on the USS Arizona on Dec. 7th of that same year. Being raised by his step father, he had made himself a promise that one day he would go stand on the Arizona Memorial and honor his father’s sacrifice. Sadly, that day never came.
After leaving the service at the end of my first hitch, but before going back in for my second, I heard from my friend who had stayed in, as he had planned to make it a career. That too, was not to be. He’d gotten cancer and was calling to tell me it was terminal. He had but a short time left, and in one of the last few long talks we had together, before he passed, one of the things he told me he regretted most was that he wouldn’t be able to keep the promise he made to go stand on the Arizona and honor his father. As his friend, and brother in arms, I told him that when I was able to make the trip, I would stand in his place and render the honors to his father for him.
As the years passed something always prevented me from making the trip; either I had the means or I had the opportunity but never, it seemed, both at the same time. Until now.
I was telling some of my relatives the other day that I wouldn't be coming home for Christmas this year, I would be instead seeing them for Thanksgiving, as I would be traveling to Hawaii for Christmas. One of my young nieces asked why and I told her. She is eleven. When I explained the situation and mentioned Dec. 7th and why I would be going to Pearl Harbor, she surprised me by not knowing about the Japanese attack that propelled us into WW II. Frankly, I was dumbfounded and quite saddened by this fact. I asked if they had learned anything at all about it in school, to which she replied, no. I can only wonder what else they don’t teach in public school these days. I know in some schools, England for instance, a couple of years ago they elected not to teach about the Holocaust because (are you ready for this?) it might offend the Muslim students who didn’t believe it happened.
I wonder how long it will be before they start deciding to not teach about 911. Some things should never be forgotten, and ALWAYS taught to the children of this nation; Concord and Lexington; Valley Forge; The Alamo; Gettysburg; Pearl Harbor; 911.
This Christmas I’ll be in Hawaii keeping a promise to a friend. I will also consider the trip a promise to the 1177 Americans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, so that the memory of their sacrifice never dies, but shines eternal.