I remember growing up and seeing my grandpa get upset whenever something was said about Pearle Harbor, and I never understood why.
He wasn't one to take to any form of Military personnel being disrespected, current or former member, he would get mad if he saw it or heard it, and boy whoever was doing it would get an ear full. He was military thru and thru and continued to incorporate it into his life daily.
There was always an American flag that flew at my grandparent's house, it flew full mast daily unless it was a military holiday or someone he knew passed away and then the flag was lowered to half-mast. Grandpa made sure that his flag was never ragged or torn, if it happened he immediately took it down and folded it, and bought a new one and he would donate his used flag. I remember one time going with him to buy a flag, because he learned that a new neighbor was a former member of the Navy as was he and he took it to the man. When we knocked on the door, my grandpa handed him the flag properly folded and welcomed him to the neighborhood. Mr. Bennett and my grandpa became friends very quickly and formed a bond with each other that the rest of the family couldn't understand. That bond was part of a military brotherhood.
Every other day at sunrise they would meet at each other's house raise their flags respectively and stand at attention, then sit on the porch and drink coffee and talk, during those morning talks with each other no one else was allowed, that was their time to reflect and discuss the things they had been though.
My grandpa would never talk about his time in the Navy with any of us, he always told us that we would never understand. I was always at my grandparent's house, I was there every chance that I got. One day after school I was sitting on their front porch and my grandpa seen me get upset over a history assignment, he seen me throw my notebook across the porch and he asked me what was wrong. When I explained to him that the assignment was about Pearle Harbor and I couldn't find anything, he just looked at me and walked off. He finished what he was doing and went into the house, about 30 minutes later he came back out with a cup of coffee and his cigarettes, and sat down. Grandpa sat down and stared straight ahead for a long time, and he finally looked at me and said what I am about to tell you I have never told anyone.
December 7, 1941, my grandpa had left the USS. Arizona to go ashore to get his haircut and to call my grandmother, after hanging up he was walking around when the first bombers hit. Grandpa said there was chaos everywhere people that were onshore couldn't get back to the ships and everyone on the ships went into battle mode. Battleship row was the target, he said that there were some bombs that hit the mainland, but the target was to destroy the ships and cripple the Naval fleet, which it did. Grandpa said he never felt as helpless as he did that day. Grandpa said everyone on the mainland was helping get people out of the water, and to the hospitals. He said that the hospitals filled up very quickly and then they started setting up tent hospitals.
Grandpa got quiet and he had this far-off look on his face, I got scared because I had never seen this look on his face before. He looked at me and told me that some of what he was going to tell me wasn't too nice. Grandpa said he saw people with parts of their bodies blown off, arms, legs, some of the people were blown in half. A lot of them were severely burned because of the powder and the fire from the bombs.
Grandpa said that everyone that was able donated blood to the hospitals, and everyone who was able to help try and help rescue others did. Grandpa said that they worked on busting holes and cutting holes into the ships to try and keep the sailors from dying and they were not 100% successful.
A lot of sailors were trapped in the ships and a lot of lives were lost that day. Almost his entire crew lost their lives on the USS. Arizona, a few were saved because they were on the shore and those that were on the deck were thrown into the water due to the explosion.
Grandpa stopped talking and told me he didn't want to talk about it anymore. I looked at my grandpa with tears flowing down my face and told him thank you for telling me, he asked me why I was crying and I told him I felt bad for everyone who lost someone that day. He then told me why he flew a flag at all times, it was in remembrance to all who have lost their lives one way or another in the military.
Grandpa said he felt guilty for surviving Pearle Harbor because if he hadn't been on shore that day he wouldn't be here, he would be with his fellow sailors entombed in the Arizona. Grandpa was Navy all the way. When my grandpa passed away when I was 15 my whole world came crashing down. He was buried with full Military Honors. My grandma never took down the flag, that my grandpa flew, but myself or Mr. Bennett continued to care for it until my grandma passed away.
What I wouldn't give to be able to just sit on the porch and talk with my grandpa again. People who have never gone through something tragic with the military do not know what it is like for these men and women who go to war and come back home. We do not understand that they had to fight every day to survive, to be able to make sure that the enemy didn't get to us, we do not understand the devastation that they saw and dealt with. Those of us at home living normal day to day lives, having fun, and being able to go where we want to, do not know what it is to have to move in a cluster for protection, we do not know what it is like to have to sleep with our friends standing guard so we can sleep, we do not know what it is like to have to leave our friends behind because they were killed and just bring back a piece of metal to give to the family of the friends we lost.
To those actively serving in the military, stay safe, to all of those the retired and currently serving in the military "Thank You for your service."