Thursday, December 5, 2013


Some of you may have seen this post before, but I am taking the opportunity to post it again a couple of days ahead of time, as it bears repeating. Let's all take a few minutes and remember what took place 72 years ago, and the men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms today.

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff. It was the only one on that block. I’m sure many people wondered about it.

But I remembered.

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted. She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries. She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day? Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost.

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad. He was turned away. I think he was always ashamed of that, because until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known. Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war. I knew that would have changed everything in my world.

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant. Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes. Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes.

I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up and faced adversity when it was required of them. Being human, as we all are, the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us. We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to. We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten.

We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future. We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively.

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house. There was only one other pole along that route that flew their flag half-staff in memory of that day seventy years ago. A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war.

Something peculiar occurs to me. I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died. I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died. There are not that many survivors left of World War II. Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts. Think of it. A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars.

No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives. When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself.

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.” That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone
And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.
Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,
The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

From “Reuben James” by Woody Guthrie

Here's the priceless recording of Woody Guthrie singing his WWII song about the sinking of the Reuben James.


  1. Cheryl,

    I always believed that the World War II generation was not only brave in war, but brave in peace as well.

    They lived through the great depression and survived. They organized, disciplined themselves and the country for war, fought it, and won.

    After the war, many went on to fight for equality in the work place and organized, demanded fair wages, fair work hours, medical and pension benefits, and achieved their goal for the rest of the working men and women of this country.

    And...we lost it...the baby boom generation may have served in war as well, but...

    I for one respect the World War II generation with all my heart. I love their stories, their history, their courage, and their songs of that era.

    When working with Vets of that generation, they didn't sit around and talk when putting together a steak dinner or fund raiser. They just said; "Frank you buy the steaks, Charlie you cook them, I'll bring the spuds, and everybody bring a desert." And they always raised money, and always had money in the bank, money veterans groups used to help the community and their fellow aging veterans.

    They got things done in a good way. Not enough can ever be said about the generation of our parents---of World War II.

    Good post, Cheryl.


  2. Wonderful post, Cheryl. You make an excellent point about schools devoting so little attention to addressing the impact of big events.

    I've lived in a couple of states where the only teaching and learning going on (at least at the high school level) revolves around passing a test to graduate. This, of course, doesn't allow the time needed to explore the whys and wherefores.

  3. I have always felt myself blessed to have known and be able to listen to the stories of those who served in "The Great War" and WWII. Over the last ten plus years it has been my pleasure to speak to these men at their reunions. The one thing that always comes through, they didn't think they did anything special. I believe it was summed up by one pilot who told me, "They called us brave young men, but we were just a bunch of scared shitless nineteen year olds" So telling, they were scared and did it anyway. Bless and remember them, for they are worth remembering. Doris

  4. Charlie, I agree with you wholeheartedly. This was a generation of people who had been raised in the Great Depression and then went to war. I've often thought about how so many of them must have felt like a fish out of water--coming from so many little small towns and going overseas to places that they'd only heard about.

    They really were the greatest generation. I respect them so much, and I guess that we'll see the death of the last soldier to fight in WWII during our lifetimes, as well.

    Thanks so much for coming by and commenting. I always enjoy your thoughtful comments, Charlie.


  5. Tom, that is one of my very very very HUGE pet peeves--even when my kids were in school it was bad, but now? Terrible. Until we stop measuring everything (especially FUNDING) by standardized tests, our schools will continue to go downhill and learning will go with it. I did a lot of teaching my kids at home in addition to them being in public schools. What I mean is, I didn't leave it up to the schools to do it, because it wasn't satisfactory. They still laugh about me playing Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins in the car on the way to drop them off and pick them up from school so they could "learn history"--The Battle of the Alamo, Sink the Bismarck, The Battle of New Orleans...LOL

    Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  6. Doris, you are so blessed to have had the opportunity to speak to them. I cannot imagine being 19 years old and trying to kill someone. Of course, our Viet Nam era veterans were the youngest (average age) of any war, I believe. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I will certainly remember them and I hope one day our schools will give them the honor and attention they are due.

  7. Good for you Cheryl, and thanks for putting up such a tremendous post.

    I was once fortunate to meet a Pearl Harbor survivor at Pearl Harbor. At that time in 1997, he was a sweet gray-haired gentleman of 75 with a tale to tell. The tale he told humbled me, struck me with awe, and brought tears to my eyes. Thankfully, my two children, who were teens at the time, were with me.

    On December 7, 1941, 19 year old Dick Fisk was a Marine PFC aboard the USS West Virginia. He was a bugler. It was his job on that bright Sunday morning to play reveille over the ship's 8 a.m.

    Well, the rest of the story was riveting, heart-rending, and heroic. It made me realize that it's our job as Americans to make sure the stories of men and women like Sgt. Fisk stay forever in our history. Thanks for bringing that to our attention today.

  8. Phil, so many of these great stories are going to be lost with the men and women that were there as they pass on. So many of them felt like they were "just doing their duty" and so on, that they don't see it as anything special. So no need to talk about it. I'm glad your children got to hear that story first-hand. Thanks so much for your comment!

  9. We live in such a priviledged country, but all too often we forget the sacrifices that brought us to those freedoms. A few years ago when I worked triage in the ER, on December 7 I asked the patients I triaged what important event happened on this day. At the end of the day only an older couple knew the importance of December 7, of Pearl Harbor, the lives lost and our entrance into WWII, a war we could not lose. Imagine a world run by Hitler.
    My father was part of the Greatest Generation, and served in the Navy during WWII. It was a generation who still believed in hard work, integrity and love of family and country.
    Beautiful, meaningful blog, Cheryl.

  10. Great post, Cheryl! The history students get in High School these days in pitiful. It might shape up a few to really learn and understand the Greatest Generation. I know, it's a privilege to interview these brave men and women.

  11. Sarah, I truly believe we will never see that kind of "thinking" and morals, caring and integrity in our nation again. I used to play a game with my kids--just ask them "What happened today in 1941?" or "What happened today in 1836?" etc. and they LOVED that!

    If we had lost that war our world would have been a place we would not recognize now, that's for sure. Thank goodness for the bravery and courage of the young men and women of our country who answered the call.


  12. Kirsten, I do believe you have the best job on the planet. You are so lucky! How awesome to have the opportunity to visit with these oldsters and learn the stories they can tell you sitting face to face with them.

    Yes, the way they teach history in school is enough to make any young kid run screaming into the night. No wonder they don't think of these historical figures as actual people--so it's hard to imagine everyday people going off to a war, even though it was not so long ago--history-wise.

  13. When my father-in-law died, the family asked me to write his obituary, so I had to do a lot of research. He'd never told us what he actually did. And I was utterly astounded, as were his children. How a man can endure what he did and live, let alone come back to the US and lead a relatively normal life, is beyond me. He was a true hero.

    December 7th is a day when we remember our WWII heroes, but it's important to keep all our heroes in our hearts. My cousin, who served two tours of duty as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam and another in infantry, tells some poignant stories as well. He never tells the whole story, though, and I doubt he ever will.

  14. Jacquie, isn't it odd how the real heroes never tell the story? My husband was in Viet Nam, too, and never says much about it. I imagine a lot of it is just too awful to remember and think about for long. You're right, though, about always honoring and remembering ALL our veterans throughout the ages. What they did should never dim with the passage of time.

  15. I was born November 1, 1941, a month and 7 days before Pearl Harbor. My Dad was born in 1906, which made him a little old for going to war, but he did work in a munitions factory. Two of his brothers went and came back, I have no idea what they did. My mother's younger brother flew a B-24 in the Pacific Theater. I have never heard his war stories. Even his life history, put together by his children, say nothing other than he went, he served, he came home. Yes, we need to remember the happenings that shape our country. WWII was one of them. It gave us the idea that we could save the world by promoting democracy. But, living in a foreign country for more than half my life, I can say that our way of life is not necessarily ideal for a country with a culture different from ours. Since 1814 (or thereabouts) we have not been invaded by hostile forces. On the other hand, we have been the invader several times, for whatever reason. War is not pleasant to remember. Bravery and sacrifice must be remembered. Ooooo. That turned into a rant.

  16. Charlie, this makes me want to write a book--all these untold stories. LOL You're right--bravery and sacrifice must be remembered. I can't imagine losing my son to war.