Thinking back to Pearl Harbor

Published 6:14 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

By Rod Thompson

Eighty years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in an era where the media and predatory politicians hyper-focus on the missteps of our nation’s past, it is of the utmost, patriotic importance to educate the youth on such historical watershed moments.

On the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, none of those sailors, chiefs, or officers were warriors. In those early hours of that Sunday, they were little more than unused peace keepers and a display of United States sea power around the globe. Those who joined in the respite between World War I and World War II had experienced full careers without ever feeling the heat of a burning ship, inhaling the acrid scent of burning oil, or experiencing the challenge of navigating darkened passageways, made slick and puddled by the blood of their shipmates.

But when the enemy crossed oceans to attack our shores, proud American men and women responded with a follow-through that eventually toppled the Japanese empire.

What internal drive steered these would-be warriors from flight to fight?

I once visited the USS Arizona memorial as a junior sailor in the closing days of my first deployment in 2001, and I remember being overwhelmed by an odd kinship to those still resting inside the ship below. In the afterglow of the visit, I reflected on the experience and wrote a small essay where I attempted to convey the raw terror they must have felt, unexpectedly thrust into war at a moment’s notice. It was the first time that I truly grasped my place as both an American citizen and a third-generation Navy man.

What would it have felt like to have awoken in a time of peace, then watch it all shatter in an instance of absolute, war-declaring violence?

Poetically, or divinely, I wrote that essay during the first week of September 2001, only days before the events of 9/11. Our lives as Americans and my service to this country were never the same. All that I had hypothesized in that essay became raw reality in the span of a few short hours, and those of us who joined in a time of peace found ourselves thrust into a war we never expected.

And it could easily happen again in the years to come.

With the “Greatest Generation” now passing into the great beyond, proud members of the new generation continue to extol the providence of the American Way, while others forget the very fibers from which our country is woven. Eighty years on, we have a responsibility to educate those around us as to why Dec. 7 is just as important in 2021 as it was in 1941. We need to remind people that peace and freedom can be incinerated without a stoic internal defense. Be it by bombs unloosed by an envious foe or through the forked tongues of emotionally fragile, weak citizens, the American Way will once again fall under attack. It’s an inevitable certainty that has played out over and over again throughout history, and America will need new defenders to rally to her aid.

History’s importance is the prime ingredient in crafting such defenders. Those who grow up with a sense of national pride during peacetime will be the soldiers who fight for her freedom when the battle comes to us. Conversely, those ignorant of our country’s heroic history, without pride in the American Way, will easily bow down and surrender their God-given rights to the lowest bidder. The choice is ours as to how we raise our youth, but now more than ever, America needs defenders.

Our responsibility to this country, as it always has been, is to ensure that future generations stand proud beneath the Red, White, and Blue stars and bars of Old Glory and feel the warmth of a sun that shines down on the prosperity of a free land. The weight of this task and service is centuries old, but now ours alone to bear.

God bless those who’ve fought, those who’ve passed, and “We the People” who will lead America into a prosperous future.

Rod Thompson is a long-time Suffolk resident and a chief operations specialist in the U.S. Navy, currently serving in his 23rd year on active duty.