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:
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.
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!