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September 10, 2011

This following essay was originally an email I sent out to the customer list of a company I once managed on the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend:

The world was a much different place. You could walk the streets at night, people left their houses unlocked, and life was lived at a much slower pace. That's not necessarily to say things were better - just different. We didn't have the modern conveniences of cell phones, microwave ovens, or television, and the automobile was just coming in to its own. There were "wars and rumors of wars" as the Bible had so eloquently put it, but no one seemed genuinely worried - after all, the rest of the world was an ocean away! Then, someone (or someones) mis-calculated.

It was a clear Sunday morning at the nations largest naval installation, and many were just beginning to stir - most looking for a needed rest day - when the dull explosions on Ford Island and in the harbor named for Pearl City began to be heard. Most thought the Air Group was on a practice run, and some wondered who the idiot was that would schedule such training this early on a Sunday morning. Suddenly the USS Arizona was literally lifted out of the water and literally blown in two as a Japanese bomb ignited her ammunition magazine, instantly killing or trapping hundreds of our Nation's finest. Then the realization sank in - we were being attacked. US!

A nation that had resisted every attempt to get involved in the European conflict suddenly did an about face, and with collective anger and resolve for the "dastardly attack" as their President had called it, vowed to do whatever it took to win a full victory, not just from the Japanese who had attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but from their allies as well in Europe.

Admiral Yamamoto, from the bridge on his carrier just as the attack was ending, lamented that he was afraid the attack had "...awakened a sleeping giant". Little did he know what that sleeping giant would do over the next four years, and how that single event would forever change the face of the world.

We can talk about strategy, tactics, logistics, and all the elements that went into winning that war, but the one thing we can never forget is the sacrifice of those individuals upon whom a fearful but resolved nation called to fight the greatest conflict in history. You've seen the movies, heard some of the stories, and read the history books, but you'll still never understand what these men and women did, the terror they faced, the sacrifices they made so that you and I could live in the place and enjoy the freedoms we do. My own father was wounded at the battle for Luzon in the Philippines. Many would suffer for the rest of their lives. Many would never come home. All would be changed.

Most veterans don't want to talk about what they saw and experienced. For many, the horror is just too much to re-live. Everyone lost someone they knew and/or loved. But, they all paid the price that was asked of them, even if it was the ultimate price. When it was all over, they came back home, and tried to resume a life that would never be the same.

You won't hear these men complain. You'll rarely hear them brag. As a matter of fact, you'd be fortunate if you can get them to talk at all about what they saw and experienced. But they did what was asked of them, and gave the world a gift we can never repay.

This weekend, as you enjoy the holiday, take a few minutes and thank God that he gave us such men and women, and that with their sacrifice and His guidance, we enjoy the freedoms we do. While you're at it, find a veteran and thank him personally. They never did get enough of that.

We wish you a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

And thanks Dad - I owe you.


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