Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tragedy to Triumph

Our day started at Hickam Field, where there still remain bullet holes made by Japanese aircraft on that fateful day, December 7, 1941. Our day ended aboard the “Mighty MO,” the U.S.S. Missouri, where Japan surrendered nearly four years later.

As we toured, our veteran, Dr. Bruce Heilman, related his memories of the war. He was with the US Marines stationed at Okinawa when news arrived of the bombing of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Prior to August 1945, he and his fellow soldiers genuinely thought that they would have to lay down their lives for their country. With a smile, he recalled the celebration and firing of weapons that followed the arrival of the news that the war had finally ended.

During our tour of the USS Missouri, a US Navy Honor Guard presented American flags to each of our veterans in recognition for their service to our country. None of these men had experienced such before and Dr. Heilman commented that at no other time had he seen this ceremony so well executed, as it was this day. To further honor our veterans, they were given the opportunity to raise their flag above the USS Missouri before it was saluted and returned to the men. As students, we left with a deeper respect for our flag, its heroes, and the price they paid for our freedom.

Tonight, we were invited to the home Marine Corps Colonel Walter Watson and his family for dinner where our veterans shared personal stories regarding their wartime experiences. While listening, we were reminded of an excerpt from a prayer recited by sailors aboard the “Mighty MO” in memory of those fallen, but not forgotten. “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they now are a part of us.” Our generation is a candle against the setting sun of the “Greatest Generation” and our veterans are, indeed, a part of each of us.

Rachel Napier and Joseph Long

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