December 8, 2011

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Yesterday marked the “date that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.

This day of remembrance is especially meaningful to the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, founded by military personnel on the island of Oahu on December 7, 1941. The roster began with 28,000 members, reports an article in The New York Times, but that number has fallen to around 2,700 (an estimated 8,000 Pearl Harbor survivors are still alive).

Yesterday’s gathering will be the last one marked by the Association. It will disband on December 31 because there aren’t enough survivors to keep the organization running, due to the veterans’ declining health and deaths. “We have no place to recruit people anymore,” says Harry R. Kerr, the director of the Southeast chapter. December 7 only happened on one day in 1941.”

As you might imagine, some Pearl Harbor survivors are concerned that this significant event in their—and the nation’s—lives will be relegated to a small notation in a history book, or even forgotten all together. “I was talking in a school two years ago, and I was being introduced by a male teacher, and he said, ‘Mr. Kerr will be talking about Pearl Harbor,’” said Kerr. “And one of these little girls said, ‘Pearl Harbor? Who is she?’”

My family and I were fortunate to be able to go to Hawaii earlier this year, and we visited Pearl Harbor, part of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Joe loaded some of the pictures he took during the trip to the background of this blog, and among those are a photo of the memorial built over the sunken remains of the U.S.S. Arizona, and another of the ship’s anchor.

We got to the park early, since we’d heard it gets crowded later in the day. Park Service and Navy personnel are on board the boat we took to the actual memorial site, and the mood is somber and respectful. There wasn’t much talking among all us visitors on the way over, and especially not at the memorial and on the return trip. We all gazed at what we could see of the Arizona’s deck under water, and at the stacks visible above and the buoys marking aft and stern. We solemnly crowded into the room listing the names of those who died aboard the ship, many of whom are entombed there. Although we didn’t know anyone who had family who died at Pearl Harbor, we were still moved, remembering the terrible toll from that fateful day and the war that followed.

Both of Joe’s parents served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, my father was briefly in the Marines, and my mother and her parents worked in a munitions factory, so we’ve heard their stories. But now, only my mother remains alive as an eyewitness to us of that part of U.S. history.

As the Pearl Harbor survivors wonder, so do I: will future generations remember the significance of December 7? I don’t know the answer, any more than the Pearl Harbor survivors do.

But what I do know is that the significance of December 25 will endure. Christmas is much more than a one-time event; it’s the Person of Jesus, the “Mighty God [and] Eternal Father” (Isaiah 9:6) whose kingdom will have no end (Isaiah 9:7, Daniel 7:14). His birth, “officially” celebrated one day of the year, is still remembered daily some 2,000 years later. He died but didn’t remain in the tomb, unlike the poor sailors of the Arizona. He “is and was and is to come” (Revelation 1:8), residing in heaven and with the recruits He still calls (Matthew 11:28).

Immanuel…God with us…”good news of great joy for all people” (Luke 2:10), now and forever.


  1. Elise Daly Parker says:

    Beautiful Penny! I had chills as I read. It is a little unbelievable to me that we are now at an age where part of what we grew up learning about as an immediate experience of our parents’ is unknown by the next generation.
    Ah yes, then there’s the Good News, Jesus has overcome the world and death has been swallowed up in victory. Alleluia!

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