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Darrell Huckaby - Thoughts turn to Pearl Harbor

The forecast for today is for partly cloudy skies. The high temperature is expected to reach 80 degrees.

Not here. Honolulu. That's where my mind drifts off to when I see Dec. 7 on my calendar and that's where your mind should drift off to as well - at least for a moment or two.

I've often wondered what it must have been like for those men in Pearl Harbor - and at Schofield Barracks and over at Hickam Field when the bombs started dropping from the sky. It was just another Sunday morning in Paradise. Christmas was coming. Europe was in flames. But the soldiers and sailors on the tropical island of Oahu were as far removed from war as ...

Well, they were as far removed from war as we are today, sitting at our kitchen tables reading the paper - or by the fireside or in our living rooms decorating our Christmas trees or sitting in our church pews. They knew that danger lurked, but had no notion, as they slept in their bunks or as those who were already awake prepared to face the day that the day that they would face would be one that would live in infamy.

It has been 67 years now and fewer and fewer Pearl Harbor survivors are left alive to share their memories of that awful day. My friend, Runie Walston, was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Last Christmas he invited me to speak to his Sunday School class Christmas party. He passed away a few months ago. I don't know how many other survivors are dwindling.

I was last at Pearl Harbor five years ago - a couple of days after Memorial Day. My family and I took the launch out to the Arizona Memorial. Most of those aboard the craft sat and reflected quietly about what that day must have been like. One family, however, talked incessantly during the short trip across the harbor. You've been around the type. They talked so loudly that other people couldn't ignore the conversation, even if they wanted to. A boy of 10 or 12, judging from his looks, was the worst offender, although his mother was a close second.

Once the launch reached the memorial, the passengers began to file off, still talking in muted tones, if at all. We were, after all, entering the final resting place for more than 1,000 young men. I was one of the last people off the boat and the boy from the obnoxiously loud family was right in front of me - still screaming at the top of his lungs and generally acting the fool.

The uniformed serviceman standing guard at the Arizona held his finger to his lip, as the kid climbed up the gangplank, cautioning him to be quiet. "This is hallowed ground," he told the boy. "You need to show respect."

The kid made some vulgar response and continued hollering at his sister, now imploring her to wait for him.

The serviceman - and I honestly can't remember if he was a sailor or a Marine - snatched the kid up - and when I say snatch him up, I mean literally - by his shirt collar and deposited him unceremoniously back in the launch.

"You will stay here and you will keep your mouth shut," the guy told him. "You will not desecrate the final resting place of these brave men by your rude behavior."

And after our tour of the Arizona Memorial we got back on the boat for the return trip and the young malefactor was still sitting quietly in the boat's stern.

As a nation we would do well to take to heart the admonition that young man received at the Arizona that day. Hundreds of thousands of young men - and women - have made the supreme sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we so routinely abuse today. Our country has a long list of problems facing us today - the economy, over-dependence on foreign energy, a failing public education system, environmental issues, a two-front war in the Middle East - almost more than we can say grace over.

And yet we too often find ourselves bickering with one another over trivial matters instead of closing ranks to solve the problems that face us with a united front. And too often, many of us lose sight of the fact that just like on that calm Sunday morning in Paradise, on Dec. 7, 1941, there are enemies lurking, just waiting to catch us with our guard down; waiting to create another day of infamy.

Our nation responded after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Old and young, men and women - of all races and creeds and from all stations in life - pulled together as one and saved the world.

Remember Pearl Harbor - and let's do it again. Let's not allow those honored dead to have died in vain.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.