The day began bright and early, by far our earliest so far. We met downstairs at the elevators at 5:30 sharp. The hotel provided us with coffee and meals to take onto the bus since the kitchen had yet to open. On the way to the USS Arizona Memorial we were forced to take a detour in order to make it around the traffic jam as close to 3000 people made their way to the memorial service. The veterans were greeted as we left the bus and we approached our seats. Just as we had seen the last few days, the veterans were treated like the living legends they are. Everyone wanted pictures and autographs. We finally got to our seats with our 24 veterans, joining approximately 100 other Pearl Harbor Survivors at the ceremony.At 7:30, the memorial started with a Hawaiian blessing and prayer, followed by a Moment of Silence. A Naval Destroyer, the USS Chung-Hoom, passed through the harbor with her sailors manning the rails in their white uniforms, saluting the USS Arizona as they passed. At 7:55, the time of the attacks, the US Air Force, along with the Air National Guard, flew a “Missing Man” formation over the harbor. As the F-22s came roaring over, the veterans looked to the sky, glad to know that today our fighters now patrol the skies of Pearl Harbor, keeping all of us safe.
Next, we prepared for the arrival of the guest speakers and the guests of honor, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, and Pearl Harbor Survivor Mal Middlesworth. Throughout the week, there had also been the slight expectation that President Obama would join for the ceremony as well. After all, President Obama landed in Hawaii Saturday night and this was the last full Pearl Harbor Memorial Ceremony that meant so much to the veterans and their families. However, the veterans were disappointed that President Obama and Secretary Salazar were absent. Secretary Mabus spoke to the veterans, reminding them of the fact that on that day in 1941, “uncommon valor was a common virtue,” a famous quote often used to describe the Marines at Iwo Jima. However, Secretary Mabus assured the veterans of Pearl Harbor that it described them just as much. After listening to the veterans’ heroic stories these last few days, we know they truly are incredible people.On our way out of the memorial, the veterans took time to look at the harbor in remembrance, as well as talk to anyone who came up to thank them for their service. As we prepared to leave for Ford Island, finding the veterans was not a problem. We simply had to look in the center of the different crowds of people huddled around them. Getting them away from the crowds, however, proved difficult as everyone there wanted to shake their hands. On Ford Island, we ate lunch at the Pacific Aviation Museum, where the staff adapted so our veterans could eat inside an old WWII hangar, out of the sun. We were joined by 24 Army soldiers with the 25th Tropic Lightning Division who had recently returned from Afghanistan.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel for some rest and to recharge our batteries for a big night out. The veterans had been anticipating this night since they first heard about it. Tonight, each veteran was a Grand Marshal in the first annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Parade. They led us through the streets of Honolulu, seated in Corvettes, with the biggest smiles we’ve ever seen. After seeing their truly genuine smiles throughout the parade, we know that whatever we can do for these veterans is worth it. They deserve anything and everything, and we will make sure this program is one they will never forget.
The Greatest Generations Foundation
Remember Those Who Served
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