Monday, December 7, 2009


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 sixty-eight 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


  1. Wonderful post Cheryl! Thank you for remembering!

  2. It's so important to remember not only those who defended our country before, but also those who are doing so now. My husband served and a two brother-in-laws and I have two nephews in the service now. Wonderful post.

  3. It is so easy to forget what others have gone through to make sure of our freedom. Great post, Cheryl.

  4. Hi Martha,

    It's hard to believe that I was born less than 20 years after that war STARTED. Amazing when you think of it.


  5. Hi Miriam,

    Yes, it's important, isn't it, because if we don't give it the importance it deserves, what does that mean to our soldiers who are out there fighting in the different arenas of TODAY? What's it worth? Thanks for commenting.

  6. Hi Karen,

    Yes my husband is a Viet Nam era vet, and talk about a war that is swept under the rug. It is disgraceful the way our country treats the men and women who have fought for it. Please tell all your "men" THANK YOU from me!

  7. Hi Zequeatta,

    Yes, and I don't think people don't care--I just think people are so busy any more in everyday living that they don't take the time to talk to the younger generations and tell them how important this is. Did you see that article on the news a few weeks back about poorly Oklahoma schools were doing in history testing? It was amazing! Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  8. Cheryl, thank you for such a thoughtful reminder of how much we owe the past generations of men who have fought and died for our country. We need to give thanks every day to them and their families for their ultimate sacrifices. What would our country be like today if they had not served as they did.

  9. Hi Cheryl,
    Wonderful post.It is so sad that people don't remember the sacrifices of the previous generations, and that returned servicemen now and then, don't get the accolades they so richly deserve.
    As well as Pearl Harbour being bombed by the Japanese, on the 7th December,Singapore was also bombed in preparation for invasion. A truly terrible time, and I know this for a fact, because my late father was serving in Singapore at the time. He escaped capture by the Japanese, and made quite a daring escape in a Chinese junk, but the majority of his army friends were captured and about 70% of them died as prisoners of war.
    Well done to remind people of these harrowing times.

  10. Thanks for remembering, Cheryl. They had an article in one of my local papers about Pearl Harbor vets that was very touching. It's important to remember, because you don't want to repeat mistakes. Thanks for sharing.


  11. Linda,

    You are so right. We should give thanks each and every day for those who served before our generation and for those who are serving now. So many times our servicemen and women are just forgotten. It is really sad to me. Our country would be nothing like it is if not for these men and women who risk literally EVERYTHING.

    Thanks so much for commenting!

  12. Margaret,

    Thank you so much for bringing the bombing of Singapore to my attention. I did not realize that! WOW, your father escaped in a Chinese junk? What a story! You know, I was watching the news on the 7th and they interviewed a Navy veteran--he is now 87, I think they said, and he started telling about being at Pearl Harbor that day and what happened to him, what he saw, etc. and he broke down and started crying. All these years later, and it still had that profound effect on him. He ended by saying, "All these wars and killing and losing our young men...It ain't worth it." My heart just broke, watching him. The veterans who live through those battle times are wounded in their soul and spirit. We need to always remember.

    Thanks for coming by and commenting, Margaret.

  13. Hi Steph,

    Yes, the number of vets is getting smaller and smaller. I saw on the news the other night that this veteran they interviewed kept a list of all the WWII veterans that still lived here in Oklahoma. There are now only 33 of them left. My hat is off to every vet that ever served. My husband is a Viet Nam vet and we have sure gone through some hard times because of that. I know it profoundly affects the human spirit. I wish I could hug each and every one who ever served.

    Thanks for coming by and commenting, Steph--I know you were in the military, so here's a cyber hug for you!