Seventy two years ago yesterday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched their famous attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The next day the United States, under the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, declared war on Japan. Unquestionably, as has been said many times before, the Japanese awakened “a sleeping giant” and the attack on Pearl Harbor with the resulting loss of life unified our country and led to our ultimate victory in the Pacific as well as other regions around the world.
I don’t know anyone who was personally involved in the Pacific theatre. Both my father and Janet’s Dad were either in Europe or North Africa and most of my knowledge about the war centers on those regions of the world. Yet, with the importance of Pearl Harbor and the fact that there are remembrances each year on Dec. 7th, including flags being flown at half staff in memory of those who lost their lives as a result of the attack, I have always had a strong desire to see the memorial at the USS Arizona. This past summer, as part of our trip to Hawaii for our 40th anniversary, Janet and I listed a visit to Pearl Harbor as the most important event on our trip.
As you may recall, our trip was cut short by the death of my mother-in-law, but we were able to visit this historic site on our first day in Hawaii before we headed back to the mainland. It wasn’t anything like either of us had envisioned. In fact, TV specials and study before we actually made the trip were nothing like the reality.
First of all, our travel agent suggested going on the first day, early in the Hawaiian morning, which was a brilliant suggestion. We were up anyway, with the time change, and this particular tour is something you want to do before the heat of the day. Janet and I have never been to Hawaii before so the whole environment was new to us. It’s quite a bit different from Florida or even California for that matter. But the visit to the USS Arizona was something that we were able to accomplish.
When we actually got to the memorial itself, I was struck by the stark nature of the structure. It was white and rather plain – straddling the remains of the Arizona visible in the shallow water below. The smell of oil and the periodic bubbles of air from the hull below were constant reminders of the service people who gave their lives during the attack. We were asked to remain silent during our time on the actual memorial most of the visitors complied. Janet and I are both glad we make the trip and witnessed this part of American history.
Several things we didn’t know about Pearl Harbor. Survivors of the attack can be buried with their shipmates with their ashes taken down by divers and laid in the gun turrets. And when the government shut down in October, service people in Hawaii made sure the grass was mowed and that the grounds were taken care of in honor of those who were victims of the attack, even though this was all unofficial.
The point here is that Pearl Harbor and so many other historic sites, such as Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemetery, are all about remembering the past and honoring those who have sacrificed on behalf of our nation. There are many other memorials, too numerous to mention, throughout the world commemorating other noteworthy events where people have lost their lives. Normandy, the Nazi prison camps and other sites are all about remembering what happened.
God doesn’t want us to forget the past. Part of His mandate for us is to remember and honor what has happened in the past generations. We are told in tonight’s verse, from Deut. 32:7, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.” This is a God given mandate to remember the past. My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God values honoring those who have gone before us. My prayer is that learning from the past will help you prepare for the future and that you will one day be remembered as you recall those who went before us. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…