Perhaps we wouldn’t have been prosecuted, or informed that we would be “monitored” by others with only our best interests at heart, but perhaps we would have been. In any case, living under the threat of such action is not consistent with living in a free society, and it also completely lacks common sense, as my story illustrates.
1991 was the year that marked the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Pearl Harbor survivors from all around the country were gathering in Hawaii to commemorate the event with many days’ worth of ceremonies and events. My Grandpa had been a boatswain’s mate on the USS St. Louis on that fateful day, so my family made plans to travel with him and my Grandma to Hawaii to be part of it all.
We spent a whole year saving money and planning our 10 days. We kids each took jobs - babysitting, paper routes, whatever we could get. We had to earn enough to pay half our airfare and all our spending cash. We mapped out our schedule and all the events and sites we would visit, packing every day with so much education, it was like months of reading books. We still give my mother a hard time about that fact that we spent ten days in Hawaii, and only three hours at the beach! At 14 years old, I thought that wasn’t quite fair!
So, what did we do on this unexcused family vacation?
We learned about the agricultural industry of our country’s island state with a visit to the Dole Pineapple Fields and Factory. We experienced the exotic botanical wealth of the islands and learned about part of the ancient Hawaiian lifestyle and culture of bravery as we watched cliff divers at Waimea Falls.
And then there was the historical education. Along with hundreds of Pearl Harbor survivors, we attended a ceremony on the bank of the Harbor itself, with the Arizona Memorial as backdrop, where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell, spoke about the meaning of what happened on December 7. We went and stood at that sacred memorial ourselves, learning through the unmistakable spirit of the place, what no textbook could teach.
On December 7, we boarded a bus at 5:00 a.m. to reach the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in time for the sunrise ceremony where President George Bush, the keynote dignitary and speaker, graciously thanked the veterans on behalf of a nation, and remembered all those veterans from throughout the Pacific theater who were buried there in that holy ground.