REMEMBERING OUR HEROES: December 7, 1941 – by Cheryl Pierson

I wrote this blog a couple of years back to commemorate what President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared “a day that will live in infamy”–December 7, 1941. I won’t be blogging here again until December 28, and I know this is early, but I wanted to share it with everyone so that we will never forget. As time passes, the men and women who lived through it are dying off. In my lifetime, they will all be gone, those warriors who went to battle for our freedom in World War II. During all the holiday preparations, please take time to remember with me what took place in our country on that day, a little over 70 years past.

Driving down one of the busiest streets of Oklahoma City today, I noticed a flag at a local business flying at half-staff. It was the only one on that block. I’m sure many people wondered about it. But I remembered.

December 7, 1941…the day the U.S. was brought into World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Through the years, my mother recounted tales brought home from “over there” by her relatives who enlisted. She talked also about the rationing here at home—how difficult it was to get needed items, and how impossible it was to get luxuries. She was 19 when the U.S. entered the war—just the very age of so many of the young men who were killed in the surprise attack on December 7, 1941. Was there a man of that age who didn’t rush down to sign up for duty after that fateful day? Many of her fellow students and co-workers did just that, and during the course of the next four years of war, many of them were lost.

My father tried to sign up, but his lungs were bad. He was turned away. I think he was always ashamed of that, even though it was through no fault of his own. Until the day he died, he had one of the most patriotic hearts I’ve ever known. Secretly, when I was old enough to realize what that might have meant, I was glad that he had not had to go to war. I knew that would have changed everything in my world.

Being as close as it was to Christmas made the deaths of the men at Pearl Harbor even more poignant. Just done with Thanksgiving, looking forward to the Christmas holidays to come, so many young lives snuffed out in the space of minutes.

Watching the documentaries, hearing the old soldiers that are left from that time talk about the horror of that day, and of war in general, brings tears to my eyes. I’m always amazed by the generations that have gone before us, and how they stood up and faced adversity when it was required of them.

Being human, as we all are, the unknown was just as frightening to them as it is to us. We tend to forget it, somehow, because of the luxury and comforts of our modern lives that we have become used to. We have let ourselves become numb, in a way, and what’s worse—we have forgotten. We have forgotten what the generations before us sacrificed for us, their future. We have forgotten how to honor the memory of those men and women, and what they did, individually and collectively.

I counted flagpoles the rest of the way home from that one, lonely half-staff flag—about a mile and a half to my house. There was only one other pole along that route that flew their flag half-staff in memory of that day seventy years ago. A day that ended in smoke, and fire, drowning and death…and war.

Something peculiar occurs to me. I have been alive during the time when the last surviving widow of a veteran of The War Between The States died. I have been alive during the time that the last survivor of World War I died.

There are not that many survivors left of World War II. Yet, our schools pass over these huge, world-altering events as if they are nothing, devoting a page or less to them in the history texts. Think of it. A page or less, to tell of the suffering, the economic impact, the technological discoveries, and the loss of humanity of each of these wars. No wonder our society has forgotten the price paid by those who laid down their lives. When we don’t teach our children, and learn from the past, history is bound to repeat itself.

President Franklin Roosevelt declared December 7, 1941 as “a day that will live in infamy.” That statement, spoken so boldly, believed so strongly, held so close to the hearts of that generation, is only true as long as the next generation, and the one beyond that, remembers.

Well, many years have passed since those brave men are gone

And those cold ocean waters now are still and they’re calm.

Well, many years have passed, but still I wonder why,

The worst of men must fight and the best of men must die.

From “Reuben James” by Woody Guthrie

When a man goes to war, he comes home with scars that no one else can see. He is forever changed inside, no matter how he may look on the outside.  When I decided on my hero for THE WISHING TREE, my Christmas story in the Victory Tales Press 2012 Christmas Collection, I knew that he would have both physical and emotional scars that would separate him from a normal life. He goes through the motions, but being severely wounded in Iraq and losing one eye has set him apart forever. Nothing is the same for him, once he returns; it can never be, for our veterans who have seen things that civilians will never have to encounter. Six years have passed since his return and he has all but given up hope of attaining the dreams he once had. No one can encounter the horrors of war and then continue their lives as if that part of it hadn’t happened. That was why I chose for Pete, the hero in my story, to have had a soldier’s background—to bring awareness to readers that, no matter the war, no matter the era, the damages to our soldiers are the same.  How is he going to handle it, once he finds a beautiful young woman who loves him, no matter what?

THE SET UP: Pete Cochran has his eye on a beautiful woman, Maria Sanchez, who walks by the tree lot where he works each day. On this particular day, she and her young son, Miguel, stop to price a Christmas tree. Pete’s dad owns the lot, and Pete gives her a tree. At first she refuses, but Miguel wants the tree badly and Pete insists. Here’s what happens:

EXCERPT:

Maria laughed. “I can’t argue with both of you at once. Now, how are we going to get it home?”

“I can carry it, Mama! I’m strong!”

Maria ruffled her son’s dark hair. “I know you are, m’ijo, but that tree might prove a little much for you.”

“I’ll bring it down to you after work today,” Pete heard himself volunteering. “I get off at five—”

Maria shook her head. “I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking. I’m offering.”

Silence fell between them for a moment. When she looked up into Pete’s face, he knew he had to guard his heart carefully. He was already in danger of losing it. “Look—I know you don’t know me, but I swear you have nothing to worry about…” Had he said that right? He didn’t want to scare her. In this crazy world you never knew about people…especially, with her being a single woman—

A thought flashed through his mind as sobering as a bucket of cold water being dashed in his face.  Was she single? Maybe that was the cause of her refusal…a husband, or boyfriend at home.

“I know. You’re a very good person.” She was gazing up at him as if she could see right into his soul.

He moistened his lips. “I’m not gonna get shot or anything, am I?”

She looked down. “No. I’m definitely single, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Yeah. I guess that’s what I was asking.”

“When will you bring it?” Miguel asked, ignoring the quelling look from his mother.

Pete waited for Maria to look at him before he answered. “Whenever your mama says it would be a good time.”

“Why don’t you come have dinner with us tonight?” she asked softly. “I make a mean enchilada, if you like Mexican food.”

I’ve written two short stories with veterans from the war in Iraq as heroes. I’ve also written two short stories with Civil War veterans as the hero. But I’ve never attempted a WWII story.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Have you ever written a WWII story? I’ve often wanted to, but have never done it. Maybe one of these days…

Here’s the link for A 2012 Christmas Collection with “THE WISHING TREE” as well as 6 other Christmas stories of all kinds.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009VL66F2

A complete list of all my work can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

Thanks so much for coming by today–I will be giving away  pdf copies of A 2012 Christmas Collection to two commenters today! Thanks so much for coming by! Be sure to leave your e-mail addy in your comment so I can reach you if I draw your name!

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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: fabkat_edit@yahoo.com
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22 thoughts on “REMEMBERING OUR HEROES: December 7, 1941 – by Cheryl Pierson”

  1. What a touching post, Cheryl. And I always love your excerpts. I know you had pictures to post. Sorry about the wordpress issues that kept you from putting them up.
    I was a baby when Pearl Harbor happened so I don’t remember it. But young as I still was, I do remember my dad going off to join the Navy in the Pacific. And I remember Mom reading me his beautiful letters, and the pictures he drew for me. He was a gunnery officer on merchant ships, made it home fine and lived to be almost 92. I still miss him and he will always be my hero.

  2. Thank you Cheryl. I was 6 1/2 on December 7, 1941. It was my brother’s birthday. We were all sitting around the kitchen table discussing what we were having for dinner. He was 16. An announcement came over the radio and all else stopped. It was war mode from then on. My other brother was a senior in high school. Birthday boy was a junior. They were hot to sign up. My father became some sort of air raid warden for our street.
    It was a scary day for me, I just sat there and absorbed all that was going on around me. No one knew where Hawaii was, except in the Pacific Ocean.
    Both brothers did go. The older one had to graduate!!! Then he went into the Coast Guard. Birthday boy was pissed his older brother got to go and he couldn’t. My Mom was adamant that he finish high school. He graduated the following January. He too went into the Navy. They both survived.
    My family was lucky, if you want to call it that, by only losing one member. My cousin was killed in France. He ccouldn’t make it into the Navy like every one else. He was in the Army.
    We will always remember Pearl Harbor!

  3. Hi Cheryl P – You are so right about the WWII vets. My father served and it is ingrained in me to honor those veterans and to honor Dec 7th. I also find it sad and appalling the little our children are learning about Am History and the wars that impacted our way of life. Good for you for waving the flag. I tend to think Dec 7 is overshadowed by another American tragedy. Sept 11…our kids will always be impacted by that date.
    A touching and moving blog 🙂
    Oh and I loved your excerpt!

  4. More lives were lost in WWII than any other war to date, and especially on Dec 7th, 1941…I am grateful that my father who served in the RAF came home, travelled to Canada and me my mother..
    I love your excerpt and want to read more..

  5. Hi Cheryl, first of all, congrats on the new release. As for the day of infamy, I’ve twice visited the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. It’s just a place of no words. Rainbows of oil still bubble up from the wreckage. Just writing it down is giving me chills. Beautiful post, filly sister!

  6. No matter what one experiences during war, I think it has to steal a part of your soul. We in North America are extremely lucky. Since the Civil War, we have not had an armed conflict on our soil. The soldiers have gone abroad and fought, but their homes and families have not been in danger. Yes there is a terrorist threat, but that is not the same as the constant danger a conflict imposes.

    When I was in college, a classmate was a Jordanian here to work on his doctorate. He was in his 30’s and had a family with 3 children. This was during the 7 Day War when Israel invaded Jordan. We were sitting in the student union watching the news when the news reporter had a live report from Jordan. The devastated village they showed was this man’s hometown. Can you imagine what he felt. His home was destroyed and he had no way to know what had become of his family and friends. It was heartbreaking not being able to help him. We may worry about our men and women in combat, but they don’t have to worry about us in harm’s way.

    I think World War II offers a wealth of material for some good stories. women were taking on new roles and the country was more aware of what was happening than ever before.

    THE WISHING TREE sounds like a nice story of someone trying to get their life back and find their lost heart. I have added this collection to my Amazon Wish List.

  7. Hi Elizabeth,
    Your memories of things that happened early in life are amazing, aren’t they? The things we think we can’t ever remember after a long while, if they’re important to us, will always be there. I think my first memory of a happening like that was when President Kennedy was shot. I was barely 6, but I clearly remember a lot about that time. I’m so glad your father made it through the war and you had him for such a long time. My dad passed 5 years ago this month, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him and my mom, who passed only 3 weeks after he did. I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt–sometimes those are hard to choose from a short story, not wanting to give away too much! LOL

    Hugs, Elizabeth, and contratulations to you on your latest Harlequin release!
    Cheryl

  8. Cathy, thank you so much for coming by–I’m glad you’re here! I will drop your name into the ol’ Stetson for the drawing! Good luck!
    Cheryl

  9. Mary J., I cannot imagine how hard that had to be for your mother to let both your brother go. But I know, patriotism was so high at that time, there was no way to stop all the young men who wanted to go. She probably felt very fortunate that she was able to see both of them through to graduation before they went! It’s amazing what small children absorb, isn’t it? When the Murrah Building was bombed here in OK City, my son was 5 1/2. We didn’t think much about having the tv on, as he was in the other room or even when he was IN the room where we were, it seemed as if he wasn’t paying attention to the “news”–just going on about his business. But he began to say he didn’t want to go to daycare anymore, which he had loved. Then it came out he thought it was HIS daycare that had been bombed. When he built a gray building on his Lego platform, half of it missing, the flag topped onto the ground, and brought it to me saying, “This is what can happen at daycare,” I quit my part time job and stayed home with him. We went through the whole nightmare thing, etc. I was glad I was able to stay home with him and help him through that time–it made me realize, there were many other people who didn’t have that luxury with their jobs/kids.

    So glad your brothers made it just fine. We were “lucky” too–I had several uncles who went and none of them died, though one of them was on the Bataan Death March and lived to tell about it.
    Cheryl

  10. Char, I believe you’re right about 9/11 overshadowing our children’s generation rather than Dec. 7. That was “so long ago” and in our fast-paced society very little time is even available for reflection and remembrance in today’s world. Here, of course, in Okla. City, we had the Murrah Building in 1995 as a precursor to 9/11. This is kind of off topic, but I’ve often thought about how, when tragedy strikes, it pulls our country together all over again, and how, even though it affects our entire nation, the places in and around where it happened is affected in a way that doesn’t compare with everywhere else. Yet, everyone joining up to go AWAY to a war is different, in that it’s more of an equal playing field no matter where you come from.

    I’m so glad your dad made it back. You know, I think every kid should have to read THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY in school. It’s too bad they don’t teach those kinds of classics any longer. SHEESH! No history, no cursive writing, and no literary classics (or very few)…That really IS sad, isn’t it?
    Cheryl

  11. Kathleen, thanks for chiming in! I’m glad to know your dad made it back all right. A big salute and hat’s off to our Allies in the War! There’s a story there, my friend–a true love story–the dashing RAF officer coming to Canada and meeting his true love. I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt. Wish I could have put up my picture, but WordPress was not cooperating.
    Hugs, Kathleen!
    Cheryl

  12. Tanya!
    Thanks for the congratulations, and I believe that YOU have a brand new release too, CHRISTMAS FOR RANSOM!

    I have never been to Pearl Harbor, but would love to go. I’m sure it’s so spiritual that there is no way to describe it. I can only imagine. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to come comment today, my filly sis!
    Hugs to you,
    Cheryl

  13. Patricia,

    That’s a perspective I had not considered–that at least our soldiers didn’t have to worry about what was happening to their loved ones at home. Very true! And just having that peace of mind, I would think, would go a long way. Your story about your Jordanian classmate…that just broke my heart. I can’t imagine being so far away from home and seeing something so devastating on tv with no way to get there to do anything about it, and not knowing would be so awful.

    It seems every generation has their war–mine was Viet Nam. My family normally ate dinner on tv trays in front of the tv set, as by that time, it was just Mom, Dad and me at home. I will never forget the body counts, the pictures (thank God for those imbedded journalists!) and actually seeing the war brought into our living rooms. Both of my sisters’ husbands were in the military, one in the Navy and one in the Marines. My husband was in Viet Nam, in the Navy–of course that was before I knew him. It is so devastating to the men (and women) who go to war, no matter the era. You’re very right–it does steal part of their souls.

    Thanks for the kind words about THE WISHING TREE! I’m dropping your name in the Stetson!

    Cheryl

  14. What a wonderful post. Thank you for wanting to honor the WWII Vets. My father was serving when I was born in 44. He was so proud of being Ameerican and loved the flag. I am so proud to have the flag that draped his coffin last year. Wish I would have written his stories down. He was a great man!

  15. Connie, thank you. Please don’t give up on writing down his stories. It’s not too late–I bet you can remember many of them, even if they’re only parts of the story. I’m doing this for my kids–just trying to remember the things that my mom and dad talked about when I was growing up and write down what I can remember of it. I have some letters and other things that were written by my ancestors that mean so much to me,and kind of give me an idea of who they really were. You could even write your story down of your life and add in what you can remember of your dad’s stories. That’s such a gift.

    Thanks so much for coming by today.
    Cheryl

  16. Cheryl, this is so touching. You said it so eloquently. We go about our busy lives and tend to take our freedoms for granted. We don’t stop and think often enough of the sacrifices that others have made so we can enjoy the life we know. My heart aches for our military who are often stuck somewhere far from home on holidays and important family events. We owe them a debt we can never repay.

    Wishing you lots of success with your Christmas anthology story.

  17. Aw, Linda, thanks so much for those very kind words. You’re right–we do just tend to “carry on” here at home and take things for granted. They had a story on the news the other night where a soldier had begged for time off to come home and be with his wife for the birth of their 2nd baby (he’d missed the first one) and the entire hospital staff was made aware that he was trying to get home and surprise her. They held it off as long as they could and he got there like 15 minutes before she had the baby! It was really a tearjerker. Thanks for your kinds words, Linda.
    Cheryl

  18. Beautiful blog, Cheryl! It’s so sad how many people don’t know what significance December 7th has to their country and their freedom. One of the purposes of the Foundation I used to work at was to gather as many WWII oral histories as possible while the Veterans from that war still lived. It always choked me up to listen to the stories of terror and heroism at Pearl Harbor.

    –Kirsten

  19. Oh, Kirsten! I wouldn’t have been able to listen without just bawling my eyes out! That had to be really tough for you, but what a worthy project! Yes, it is sad that so many have never learned about Pearl Harbor or just don’t understand about it. It’s amazing, isn’t it? Thanks so much for coming by today!
    Hugs,
    Cheryl

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