Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Visiting Pearl Harbor was pretty special for us. From different military branches and for different reasons, both Yukon and I knew people who served, fought, and subesquently were able to share their experiences with family. An opportunity to walk on the same soil was, for Yukon in particular, sacred.

My great aunt was a nurse in Honolulu's Catholic hospital on December 7, 1941. A free spirited lady, born and raised in Montana but wanting to see the world (wonder where I got the wanderbug; look no further), she had married a native Hawaii'an and settled in the city. When the planes flew over and bombs began to fall, she busied herself with getting over to the bases and helping wherever she could, though not enlisted in the armed forces; not yet. After things settled down, she flew home to Montana, "borrowed" her younger sister's birth certificate (Aunt H was considered too old to enlist at the age of 30), and became an Army Lt., eventually becoming one of the first medical personnel to accompany Gen. Eisenhower into Dachau to liberate thousands of concentration camp prisoners. And all because of one day that, indeed, lived in infamy.

Yukon's father was a lowly navigator for the Submarine Service, and traveled in and out of Pearl Harbor frequently. He joined up the day of the attacks, and was sent to Pearl to help with the salvage of the many ships destroyed on December 7, before spending the majority of time encountering Japanese ships in the South Pacific, returning to Pearl for resupplying. We toured the USS Bowfin, a sub exactly like those Yukon's father sailed.

Then there was Bear. Like most kids, a historical site like the ones at the WWII Valor in the Pacific is full of things to see, touch, and soak up. With such deep military roots, Bear was anxious to know about submarines and wars and the people who fought them. Especially at the USS Arizona memorial, his understanding became clear as he peered below the stark, white monument to the oily depths below, where hundreds of souls still lay. He got it.

We spent the entire day at Pearl Harbor. For me, it was a chance to quietly honor those I know, and those I never did. We took a lot of photos, but in them no one is smiling. And that was how we felt it should be.


Natalie said...

What a wonderful, wonderful post. Got a little teary great your son gets a taste of his magnificent heritage.

AKBrady said...

Yeah, so did I. :)

GG said...

My aunt was also a nurse in the Army and was there when that camp was liberated. Do you suppose they were in the same unit? Aunt Agnes just celebrated her 90th birthday, she was in nursing school when the US entered the war.

AKBrady said...

Hi GG, you never know! Aunt H. would have been in her late 90's by now; but she was decidedly older when she joined up, the reason she had to go "borrow" her younger sister's birth certificate. I bet at the least they were there at the same time. Thanks so much for your comment!