As the big discounts hit the stores this weekend for their annual Memorial Day Sales, it’s important to remember the real reason for the holiday; to remember the fallen men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. This is a day that we traditionally spend at the cemetery, but because we’ve been traveling for the majority of the past 13 months we’ve had some great opportunities to expand our tradition. One year ago we spent Memorial Day in Turku’s cemetery on the southwest coast of Finland. This year we found ourselves in one of the best places to remember our fallen soldiers, Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941 the Japanese successfully pulled off a surprise attack on the U.S. damaging all 8 of the U.S. naval battleships anchored in Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and killing over 2,000 Americans. The then President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, declared December 7th as “a date that will live in infamy.” Several of the ships were recovered and put back into action, but the U.S.S. Arizona went down along with nearly all of it’s crew, 1,177 in total, and stayed down making Pearl Harbor it’s final resting place. Because the waters are so shallow in the harbor, parts of the USS Arizona stick out above the surface, and the top deck rests just below. A memorial was built above the USS Arizona, giving observers a look at the destroyed ship and tomb.
While standing over the USS Arizona you can still see oil rising up from the battleship, even after all of these years.
The entire harbor is a memorial to that horrific day, with white markers in the water signifying the battleships that were hit, and two small museums as well as a short film giving a brief overview of what happened on Dec. 7, 1941. The place was packed with Japanese and American tourists alike. It’s amazing that 71 years later those who were once enemies can now look back together to mourn the lost and learn from history, and I can’t think of a better way to spend Memorial Day.