Last week I turned our photo calendar over to November and saw we picked a picture of the beaches of Normandy for November.
As we have travelled, we have visited WWI and WWII museums in England, battlefields in France, and concentration camps in Germany. Across all of those travels we’ve visited memorials and military cemeteries for French, German, and American troops.
This past summer we went to Hawaii. In addition to the typical beaches, resorts, pools, and luaus (more posts to come!) we went to Pearl Harbor. When we were there, we commented we were bookending our WW2 sites – from the beginning of America’s involvement at Pearl Harbor to the beginning of the end in Normandy, to the end back in Hawaii on the Surrender Deck of the USS Missouri.
A trip to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor is like a trip to Normandy’s beaches and cemeteries. Sad, solemn, grounding, and so quiet. We owe so much to these men and women that sacrificed all and those who served alongside them. And some at such a very young age. I was especially moved to learn survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks can be interred on the USS Arizona with their shipmates when they pass on today.
While in Hawaii I also had my Grandpa’s words and voice in my head. He worked for the War Department in Washington, DC –President Roosevelt’s car passed him on the sidewalk while the President was on his way to Capitol to declare war on December 8, 1941.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor my Grandpa joined the Navy and was stationed in Pearl Harbor. He loved Hawaii. On Sundays a group of them would take some steaks and drive to a beach for some R&R and grilled dinners.
I know this because I was lucky enough to have a teacher assign a homework assignment to learn about our grandparents’ experiences during WWII. At the time, we lived in England and this was in the mid-1980s. I sent this assignment on to my Grandpa and he sent back a cassette tape recording of his account of his WWII experience. Through all of our moves I managed to keep that cassette tape (and remember where it was). I recently bought a device to transfer the cassette tape to an mp4 file. My husband and I listened to the “tape” before our trip. What a gift. If I remembered the teacher’s name who assigned that homework I would write a Thank You to them. To have this connection to my Grandpa 32 years after he passed on is something I will treasure forever.
My grandparents met in DC, fell in love, and then Pearl Harbor was attacked changing WWII and so many lives including theirs. When history can so closely be linked to you in a personal manner it is amazing. To know my Grandpa was stationed where I was visiting 80 years apart was strange and awesome. I was lucky enough that my Grandpa came home to my Grandma in 1945. So many didn’t. That’s why on this and every Veterans Day we say thank you to our veterans.