Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TOURIST ATTRACTION(S) (natural or man-made) (08/06/15)
- TITLE: Victory is Ours
By Cindy Duncan
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Our trip to Hawaii was a journey through paradise. We saw beautiful waterfalls, lush foliage, and striking beaches. We drove to the top of a volcano, swam with a giant sea turtle, toured movie sets, and enjoyed delicious dinners with scenic views. It was a relaxing and carefree vacation. Until we visited Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is most famous for being the location where the Japanese attacked the United States on December 7, 1941. They attacked without warning, killing 2,403 Americans, and drawing the US into World War II. All eight American battleships were hit in the attack. Four of them were sunk, but the USS Arizona was the ship that suffered the most damage.
As we boarded the shuttle boat to the USS Arizona memorial, the mood quickly became somber. There was no happy tourist chatter, no sharing prized souvenirs, and no excited plans for future excursions being discussed. Even the children on board sensed that this was not the time to be playing around.
When we arrived at the memorial, and entered into the assembly room, I realized for the first time that it was built above the actual sunken ship. We stood amazed as we looked around at this room. There were seven large windows on each side, and seven more across the top of the structure. We had a view of the harbor from every direction, but the disturbing view was below us. There was an opening in the floor, so that visitors could see the ship below, and after all these years, oil was still leaking from it and floating to the surface.
As we looked down at the sunken ship, we were told that most of the 1,177 sailors and Marines that died on the USS Arizona were still on the vessel. The submerged ship was their grave. These men were just doing their job, serving their country that fateful morning, not knowing that in a matter of minutes they would be buried forever at sea. It was difficult to believe that such a horrible act of war could have taken place in a setting as beautiful as Hawaii. It seemed so out of place.
In the midst of paradise, evil appeared.
After leaving the USS Arizona memorial, we went across the harbor to visit the USS Missouri, which had been brought to Pearl Harbor in 1999. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. We became involved in World War II. But it was on the USS Missouri, while in Tokyo Bay, that the Japanese surrendered to the United States, ending the war. In fact, we stood on the deck at the very spot where they signed the papers.
We had just visited the place where the war had started, and now we were standing on the ship where the war was won. But that victory was not without cost. We learned while on the USS Missouri, that hundreds of thousands of American military lives were lost in World War II. Millions died worldwide. We were reminded as we toured that great battleship, that freedom came, but with great sacrifice.
Through the shedding of blood, victory was won.
Seventy years had passed since the Japanese bombed this harbor. Evil had come, and it had been conquered. History was all around us. But so was life. We left the USS Missouri, and stopped by the visitor’s center before leaving Pearl Harbor. It was there that we met a precious man, a survivor of the horrible attack that had taken place there.
He was in his ninety’s, but there was more spring in his step than in mine. He was dressed in full military attire, along with a ball cap that identified him as a survivor. He was telling everyone who would listen to him about December 7, 1941, and about how it had changed his entire life. “It was a nightmare,” he told one lady, and “It was such a blessing,” he told another. When he spoke to us, he recalled how he had been spared. “People were dying all around me,” he remembered, “But God saved me for a reason, and I’ve tried my best to live for him. I never want to waste a minute he has given me.”
With salvation, comes great joy.
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