A few years ago about this time we were on the east coast visiting our son. We took the opportunity to visit Liberty Hall on the 4th of July. As a travel adviser I can tell you, definitely visit these historic sites, but perhaps the 4th of July is not the most opportune time. Still, after waiting in line for some time, I do not regret standing in the room where our nation was forged over 240 years ago. It is a truly moving experience.
I've been thinking about our upcoming January trip to Hawaii so when I came across a book about Pearl Harbor, "All the Gallant Men" I grabbed it. The book was authored by Donald Stratton, one of five remaining survivors of the infamous attack on the USS Arizona. Stratton wrote the book along with co-author Ken Grie in anticipation of the 75th anniversary of the attack in 2016.
Stratton, from Red Cloud Nebraska was a product of the Dust Bowl and the Depression. Like many young men, Uncle Sam had jobs and he needed one. In the attack Stratton was miraculously rescued but burned on 65% of his body. It took well over a year to recover from his excruciatingly painful injuries, but in the end, he reenlisted. Not convinced he was suitable to fight, he was required to re-complete basic training. He went on to fight in the Pacific theater in battles like Okinawa.
I've been to the USS Arizona Memorial several times, but my trip next winter just won't be the same. I've seen the many names inscribed on the wall in this sacred place before, but this time they won't just be names. Stratton painted a picture that helped me see that these were people, these were families irreparably torn apart by war. Men and women, people, not just statistics.
Eleanor Roosevelt carried this poem in her wallet for the rest of her life after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?
As we celebrate our freedom today, I know it was not free. Thank you veterans. Let us all live our lives in such a way that we are worth the sacrifices you made on our behalf.