December 7, 1941 was a date with great meaning to my father-in-law, Lee. A survivor of Pearl Harbor, Lee was the acting National Pearl Harbor Survivor Association president for two years.
His role with the survivors was an essential part of his life, throughout his adulthood and, eventually, through his illness. The camaraderie of the survivors was like no other I had ever witnessed. They were, by all accounts, a family.
Over the years, my father-in-law met many political and military dignitaries: President Clinton, General Colin Powell, and Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, just to name a few.
The most important moments for him, though, were when he traveled to Hawaii to commemorate significant Pearl Harbor anniversaries. On these occasions, he had the chance to spend time with peers whom he had a shared experience. Although tragic, the incident bonded them for life. They were men of valor, dignity and pride.
In 2004, my father-in-law developed vascular dementia, a disease that stripped him of all that made him happy. In order to preserve his dignity and happiness, a Pearl Harbor survivor would visit him every week, always greeting him with a salute and a warm smile with some sense that they were old friends.
When my father-in-law passed away, several survivors attended his funeral even though their own health was failing. They stood side by side, chests puffed with pride in their naval uniforms, as they honored Lee with one final salute.
So in honor of Pearl Harbor Survivors both past and present, I ask you to “Remember Pearl Harbor” on Friday, December 7.
– Dawn Perdon