Archive for May, 2009

Memorial Day

May 24, 2009

pearl harbor 028This is the view at sunset looking across Pearl Harbor at Ford Island. I am standing at Hickam Air Force Base when the witness of this sky came to be.

I’m battered by a million emotions. I toured the USS Missouri twice-once alone,and then later with my son. Across the bow of this great ship you could see the USS Arizona Memorial. In the Missouri in one of the galleys was a collection of ships-cast out of pot metal,miniatures of the real thing. A young sailor collected them during the war-among them was the USS Vulcan AR-5. Out in the harbor lay the USS Vestal AR-4.

The morning I toured the USS Arizona Memorial,the ride across Pearl Harbor to where she lay-I met a man and his wife,he knew of the USS Vulcan and commented on my shirt and cap that I had worn for the occasion. A photo is in the previous post.

Because I with with my son most of the time I never exactly found the space to be alone with it all. The moment came on the airplane home crossing the Pacific Ocean. Thinking of everything I had seen-and being around so much Navy and military…each morning they blew reveille!

I started crying on the plane. Thankfully it was dark. My headphones and sunglasses hid much of the rest.

I wanted to end this thing-the journal you are reading here…and thinking in many ways the trip to see so much history would bring closure to my own past. Yes,in many private ways-I found peace. I got to be a boy again and explore the ships-even the submarine USS Bowfin,and pretend in my mind that I was back looking at a better time. How crazy is that-so many lost their lives here where I stood? But yet-the polish of the green tiled decks were of the many things that brought back the better times of 1969 and living on the USS Vulcan.

I would have written sooner. The truth is-the flight home lasted nearly 40 hours. Late connections and waiting for different flights. My resistence wore down and by the time I got home I became ill. A shrink at the VA gave me a 30 day supply of Xanax-at my request…this to numb the fear of others and of  large public places. I found a beer here and there made the effect more perfect in that it knocked me out enough I had no care. My need for self hypnosis was covered by the effects of the drug and being somewhat drunk.

I wanted to write today because tomorrow is Memorial Day.

There is a National Cemetery about 60 miles south of here. I know several people there-among them my sons grandfather,a Major of the US Air Force-a former POW kept in a Nazi Stalag until the end of World War Two.

I think looking across Pearl Harbor at Ford Island spoke a lot to me. The impact of what happened in 1941 is disguised by modern bridges and high rise apartments in the distance. But the vision of it is still there in the old buildings that are protected as part of our history. The sky remains the same as does the view across the harbor. It is easy to imagine what that day must have been like.

I need to look at the graves of thousands now and pay my respects.