7 December 1941 is a day that shall live in infamy, or so President Roosevelt stated in a speech to this nation upon declaring war in retaliation to Japans attack on our base at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii. It seems as though many people many people have forgotten what happened that day, and why the reaction to the attack was so swift and certain. Perhaps infamy only has a life span of fifty years or so.
The ranks of our veterans who served during WWII are dwindling, and even more are those that served at Pearl Harbor during the attack. A few years ago I watched a news/documentary piece relating this fact to the audience. One short piece out of that entire episode centered upon one veteran who had become the sole remaining member of his unit he had served with at that base. I do not recall the man’s name, or what his duties encompassed while in the service, but I do remember a vision that formed in my mind over this man’s lasting legacy as a part of the efforts to maintain the life of democracy around the world during those years.
According to the piece, after the war was over he and his fellow comrades in arms from that unit gathered in memory every December 7th and toasted first those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor, and then raised their glasses in memory of those comrades who had died as the years passed after the wars end.
There was finally just two men left, and as one of the men was too ill to travel very far, it was agreed that the reunion of the two would be held in this man’s hometown, rather than at the usual restaurant in another town where they had always met before. As the first man boarded a plan in early December to travel to his friends town, his wife had received an urgent call saying that his friend had been rushed to the hospital. Having no family, the man died alone in the hospital before his friend could get there.
The remaining vet mourned for his friend, arranged for his interment, and on the 7th, went to the bar the two were supposed to meet at. The TV piece did not elaborate on this last evening of remembrance, but I had a vision of this man at the bar. I could see him sitting alone at the bar, gazing at his reflection of the mirror at the back of the bar. His image blurred by the film from the smoke filled air in the bar, he could see his graying hair, the lines of age etched upon his face as he remembered every one of the toasts he and his comrades gave to those who had departed.
He raised his glass for one last toast, first for those who had died at Pearl Harbor, then for those who had passed beyond life since then, and one last time for his dear departed friend, knowing full well that there would be no one to raise their glass in remembrance of himself, the last of the heros.
I wrote a poem in tribute to these men that I call “Tipping My Last Beer,” and this year I put together a video in tribute to the 70th anniversary of this insidious attack. An attack that began even while the Japanese ambassador met with officials in Washington to negotiate a treaty.
Enjoy the video, and please share it if you would like to.