Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor Dedicates New Memorial Today

By William Cole - December 7th, 2007 - Honolulu Advertiser

FORD ISLAND — As torpedoes exploded into the side of the battleship USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, plunging below-deck spaces into darkness, a lithe and lean George Brown raced up a ladder and shimmied through a partly sprung hatch and escaped to safety.

At 5 feet 4 and 120 pounds, Brown was small enough to fit through the busted hatch, which would only open about 12 inches wide. Others tried but couldn't make it through. Some gashed themselves as they pulled through the steel edges of the hatch made ragged from explosions.

"If I hadn't gotten out of there, I'd have been a name on the memorial," said Brown, an 86-year-old 'Aiea Heights resident.


"I joined the Navy with Collins — Jimmy Collins went through boot camp with me," he said, pointing his wooden cane at the name of Collins, James E., on the black granite of the memorial.

Brown had made a vow that if he was ever near Collins' parents' home in Kentucky, he'd stop in. Years later, he made good on that.

"I went over and knocked and Mr. Collins came to the door," he said. "I said, 'Mr. Collins, you probably don't know who I am.' He said, 'Son, come inside. There you are.' "

The elder Collins pointed to the mantle, and in a photo was Brown and Jimmy Collins, Brown said, tears welling in his eyes as he told the story at the memorial.

This is a great article because it is really about 9/11 and every other challenge our nation has faced. It is about those great men and women of each generation who stand up for the freedom of all.

It is a story that is not about false bravado, but about caring for your bothers-in-arms as a symbol of concern about what the nation stands for. It is not easy and it is tinged with conflicting emotions. I remembered that lesson the day before yesterday while I visited with a friend, Joe Avery.

Joe has just returned from an extended trip to the Philippines and we have not seen each other for a couple of months. Joe is a great American, patriotic and proud. His family is from North Carolina but like many black families, left for a while for New York. However Joe returned to his roots after growing up in the North.

We chatted about the conflicting emotions he is feeling because his son is a soldier. His son is distraught over the fact that a medical condition is keeping him from returning to Iraq with his unit, which left yesterday. Joe is proud of his son and proud of his service . . . and yet he shared that he still is glad his son is not going back, so he and his wife don't have to deal with the concern about his safety.

We are at war. That is never easy. That is also the reason that I am so damn proud of the young kids who are fighting for our freedom . . . and their parents like Joe and his wife. The young kids are not doing this for glory or without fear. Like Joe they understand the risks and have conflicting emotions. In the final analysis though they understand that someone has to go and like the heroes and leaders of every generation they have volunteered to be the one who takes the risks and defends us. Most of these soldiers don't even think of it as being heroes or leaders. They just see it as a challenge someone has to take on if we are to defeat the Islamo-fascists who are attacking us.

Nothing can keep me from being proud of these young men and women. They represent the best that any nation can have. They prove that our nation has little to fear for the future with leaders such as this showing the way.

Admire them. They are earning our admiration every minute of every day. Also don't forget to thank and admire their parents. As I reminded Joe, his son is doing what he taught him to do. Joe too is what makes this nation great. May God bless them and keep them. They are in my prayers.


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