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Pearl Harbor: Remember lessons learned on that day

Many of those who were witnesses to Dec. 7, 1941 are gone now. Certainly those who were old enough to fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor are leaving us quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 550,000 of the 16 million Americans who fought in World War II are still alive.

Today, on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we honor those 2,403 killed when the Japanese surprised a small base in what was then a U.S. territory. We remember that, in declaring war and joining the Allies in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.”

And they did. The Greatest Generation saved the world, came home and fueled an incredibly prosperous decade that built the America we know today. Then they turned it over to the rest of us.

So much has changed since then. The Japanese are now among our strongest allies, and the financial partnerships they have formed in this country have been of tremendous benefit to the Mountain State. Germany and Italy, too, are among our friends in Europe, as all countries in the West face a different kind of foe — terrorists who use their warped interpretation of Islam as excuses to murder anyone they view as unlike themselves.

Remaining World War II veterans must watch Americans parade through streets carrying Nazi banners and tiki torches, chanting slogans that likely make the old guard’s blood boil. Yet they know, disgusting as such a sight may be, they fought for a country in which people are free to express whatever political views they wish.

In fact, one of them, a 97-year-old Missouri farmer who served in World War II, the Korean War and during the Cold War, responded to this fall’s uproar over National Football League players kneeling during the National Anthem by asking his grandson to take a picture of him, wearing his “World War II Veteran” hat, taking a knee in the yard. In the post his grandson shared on social media, the gentleman is quoted as saying “those kids have every right to protest.” No word on whether he agreed with the spirit of the protest, but he understood, that’s not the point.

Now, Hawaii is on alert, again. This time for dangers borne of the evil mind of Kim Jong-Un in North Korea. New (and old) dangers abound, and those who can teach us the lessons they learned after Pearl Harbor are not going to be around to do so much longer.

So today, on this National Pear Harbor Remembrance Day, take a moment to think about those lessons, some of which appear to have gotten lost, we must learn from the 16 million Americans (and their families back home) who went to war after that horrible day. If you meet one, say thank you; and try to learn something from him or her. It is the very least we can do to repay them.

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