This Thursday, December 7, marks the 65th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, a day that shocked a country into another world war – the type we had hoped to never witness again.
I was able to speak with several WWII veterans on Tuesday to discuss what they remembered about that infamous day, and how it affected their lives both then and now.
Honesty and reality were the common threads to all their answers.
Each person I interviewed was different, four men and one woman. Two were stationed at home, one was on a Navy ship in another part of the world, one was only sixteen, and didn’t understand the gravity of Pearl Harbor until he enlisted at age 17. One man was a survivor of the attack – the only one still living in Chenango County.
They told me what they remembered and what it was like. They remembered being angry, some remembered being scared after Pearl Harbor. Mostly they remembered simple things like teaching school, working in labs, playing music on ships, or transporting troops. They remembered good and bad times, family and friends. They remembered a lot of the same kinds of things most of us cherish in our lives; the things we are all the most thankful for.
How we think about wars can make us forget that veterans, in most ways, are just like the rest of us. And that should give us hope.
It should give us hope because these men and women do not recall with pride the horrific or unimaginable events they witnessed, and in some cases carried out. They remember the simple things, the things that were most like home, the things that were the furthest from actual war. They remember what they are proud of – and they are proud of living their lives. Most of all they are proud of life itself, for everyone.
Based on how they remember their experiences, when ultimately asked to take life, our veterans – either by human nature or tremendous strength – sought to preserve it, both during war and after they got home.
I’ve never been to battle. And I think never seeing fighting first hand makes it easy to try and romanticize it, or always think of it in an action movie type of way. But inside the great battles, heroic stories, and the sadness of death – somewhere there is normal life. And that is remarkable. I’m not saying war is remarkable, I’m saying that hopefully it is task that’s conceived and achieved against our good nature, which despite ourselves seems to shine through.