I like to fish. So does my father-in-law, Bob. Bob is a retired Naval Chief Warrant Officer, and Korean and Vietnam War veteran. One of my favorite things about Bob, are his stories. He has many stories of his past, of ships he has served on, and far and distant places that he has seen. So do his friends. They are all of a similar age, some older, and some a little younger, and some now gone. Their stories are rich and solid, like the men who tell them.
This is going to be about a story that one of Bob’s good friends told my wife and I while we were on a fishing trip in the Sea of Cortez. Kang is his name, a second generation American, who’s parents immigrated here from Korea. It was the first day of our trip, and we were in for a long boat ride. We were sitting with Kang at the stern, and he shared his story with us.
We fight in honorable fashion for the good of mankind; fearless of the future, unheeding of our individual fates, with unflinching hearts and undimmed eyes; we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.
Kang was on one of the ships at Pearl Harbor, seventy years ago today. He recalled the day as if it had just happened. Beautiful Hawaii weather, all was well and normal. There was a little local boy, the only civilian allowed to come on board the ships, who delivered papers to the officers on the bridge and would shine shoes. Kang saw this kid almost every day, including that day on board his ship. Kang got his paper, let the boy shine his shoes, paid the boy and watched him go.
Kang got a bit teary eyed at this part of the story. Twenty minutes later, all hell broke loose. Bombs and strafing runs, everyone scrambling, planes crashing into the ship, bodies and limbs strewn everywhere. He re-lived the day for us in full detail. It was a hard story for him to tell. There was a pause when he was finished, and after a moment, I asked him a question. “Kang, did you ever see the little boy again? You know, the one that came on board the ships?” “No” Kang said, “I never saw him again in Pearl Harbor after that day”. Kang composed himself for a moment more, and went on.
“Fifteen years later, we were on shore leave in Saipan, so I went into the officers lounge. There were two chirs over in the corner where you could sit down and have your shoes shined. So, I sat down, and had the guy shine my shoes. Just then, this young ensign sits down in the chair next to me for a shine. I looked at him and he looked at me, and we recognized each other instantly! He was the boy who delivered the papers!” Kang told us how the caught up with each other the next few hours. The young boy had lost some of his family members in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and wasn’t allowed to go back to the ships. He told Kang that he really missed being on the ships and being around all the officers and sailors. They had such a positive effect on him, that all he wanted to do was join the Navy and be like them.
We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.
Honor those who sacrifice. As a leader, honor, and learn from those who made the way before us. Many of them are still with us, every generation has that special breed of its own. Take some time, and go find one of those men who are left. They didn’t just fight a war, and call that their life. They came home, raised families, and went to work. The started businesses, and lead people and causes, and all in all, made our lives better for their contribution.
Let us remember, and then carry on like them.