Having lived at Pearl Harbor many years with a poorly placed street sign making it seem that the Arizona Memorial was in my backyard, this is an important day.
The Memorial was often right in front of me in the Harbor when I worked for the American Red Cross. You can't be affiliated with Pearl Harbor without feeling the pathos, the horror, and the valor which the Memorial represents as it still exudes a sheen of oil on to the water.
Every day, a lei will be thrown in the water from tourists or service members who still remember the sacrifice of these men. I'm sure that there will be hundreds of leis there today in their memories. Dorie Miller, pictured below receiving the Navy Cross, is a tangible hero of the War for me.
He was the son of a large family of Texas sharecroppers. A high school drop out, he was a "messman," serving food and attending to officers' staterooms and laundry. The rate doesn't exist anymore. I guess the Navy figures that officers can do their own laundry now.
On December 7, 1941, Dorie Miller heard the call of duty. He had been below decks attending to breakfast and laundry, but headed up topside.
Although he had never been trained on using Navy guns, two officers coached him and expected him to load ammunition only. When they turned back to him, he was firing away.
His years shooting squirrels to help feed his large family surely helped him. Just remember that God never, ever wastes the experiences in your life. This was just a bigger gun with bigger stakes Dorie Miller shot down 3-4 enemy planes in addition to other heroic duties moving shipmates out of harm's way.
Sadly, he was killed in action in 1943 when a Japanese sub torpedoed his ship.
As my favorite poet, Langston Hughes said, "When Dorie Miller took gun in hand, Jim Crow started his last stand..."
I remember him today.