Since today is Memorial Day, I have been thinking about what war memorials I had visited or special Memorial Day events that I could write about. I came to the somewhat sorry realization that I hadn’t been to very many. A few memories stand out.
As a 11 year old girl, I can remember proudly marching in the Memorial Day Parade in Machias, Maine. I was the girl given the honor of bearing the American flag in front of our Girl Scout troop. The parade wound through town ending at the cemetery where a short ceremony was held to honor the fallen military. I felt so important that day.
The strongest memory for me was visiting the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor multiple times when my Dad was stationed in Hawaii in the 1960’s. Yes, more than 50 years ago, but the memories of those visits stay with me after all this time.
I am ashamed to say that I dreaded going to the memorial. We went every time we had visiting relatives in town. I was probably too young to appreciate what this memorial stands for and for a 6 to 8 year old girl, it wasn’t very interesting.
There is an overwhelming sense of how deep the harbor is; so deep that most, but not all of the immense 600 foot battleship is below the surface, but just barely. I remember sitting on the edge of the platform by the railing, looking at the dark, foreboding water below, watching the oil slicks that covered the water’s surface even after 2o years. At almost every visit, I did this, sitting and staring into the water, trying to comprehend the sadness of what had occurred that December day. How unfair it was that these 1,177 men (as well as those on land) were caught unaware and killed far too soon. Sometimes I would say a prayer for them. I would look at the names engraved on the marble wall, too many to remember – someone’s son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend, sweetheart.
Another thing I remember – while in Hawaii, my third grade classes were held in what had once been barracks on Hickam Airfield. The bullet holes in the walls of some of the classrooms were a creepy daily reminder of what had happened. At recess, I would stand under the huge shady banyan trees outside, trying to image what it must have been like for those men to try to outrun the Japanese planes shooting at them and if those trees offered any safe shelter.
This Memorial Day, let us remember the sacrifice of those who have servedour country. Some of them paid the ultimate price for freedom with their lives. They fight and die so we are free from oppression and live to realize our dreams.