No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t remember being in that place. My brother remembered it; we had been there as small children, but it was gone for me as if I had never been there. Furthermore, the harder I tried to remember it, the further it seemed to be from my memory! Like me, you too probably remember many things, yet on occasions, we can forget things and so resort to making a note of it on the fridge door or programming our phone to remind us lest we forget.
Sadly, it is all too true of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Each year on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Survivors, veterans, and visitors from all over the world come together to honor and remember the 2,403 service members and civilians killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. A further 1,178 people were injured in the attack, which permanently sank the US Navy Battleships Arizona and Utah, and 188 aircraft were destroyed.
As the number of survivors falls each year, some argue that Pearl Harbor Remembrance day is outdated or less critical. Yet we look at the news today and see the horror of war all too clearly, and both men and women are deployed from this country to serve in places of conflict worldwide. I am still amazed that a few people, like recent guests of former President Trump, dare to suggest that the Holocaust never actually happened and so dismiss, at a stroke, the suffering, terror, and anguish experienced by so many millions. The plain truth is that we cannot afford to forget the past conflicts that have claimed the lives of millions over the years and maimed and mentally scarred countless more. Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day does not glorify war. Instead, it seeks to remind us of the price of peace, allowing us to briefly recall the evil and inhumanity that we as a species can stoop to and inflict on one another and the sacrifices made by so many that such tyranny did not win out in the end. For one day in the year for the majority of us, brings those things briefly back into our consciousness – lest we forget!
The Psalmist reminds us, “We have heard for ourselves, O God, our predecessors, have told us the deeds you have performed in their time, how in bygone days you saved us from our enemies.” (Ps 44:1, 7a) It is good to be reminded, if only once a year, of how much we owe to those who fought for the freedom of this country. I am permanently moved when I hear people in the street, at a restaurant, or in the airport greet uniformed members of the forces with a word of thanks for their service, even more so when it is backed with some gesture of gratitude like paying for a meal or a drink or getting on the aircraft first. We must be reminded of the stories of yesteryear and the sacrifices made so that we might have freedom. Jesus said, “I come that you might have life and live it to the full” (John 10:10), and for that, he was prepared to give his life. For some, the cost was the ultimate price we must never forget and continually seek to learn the lessons and be motivated to work for peace, to stand up against evil, and to serve and not to count the cost.
Perhaps this can be our prayer this week, ‘forgive me that I do not remember as often as I should, forgetting how fortunate I am to live in freedom and how lucky to enjoy peace; forgetting those who suffer from the wounds of battle and other who even now mourn their loved ones. Speak to me and help me not only say the words but truly mean them: We will remember them.’
May we work for a better future today and every day?
Shalom to you, my friend
(Photo by Ryan Parker on Unsplash)