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Pearl Harbor 75th Commemoration Three Generations

Posted by Ann Kinner on 12/7/2016
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Hawaii, USA, Travel, WWII

Wednesday, December 7, 2016, marks the 75th Commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor. National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is significant to many families for many different reasons – my own included.

When you come from a landlocked city and state, the first thoughts of a trip to Hawaii are ocean, white sand beaches, ocean, pink sand beaches, more ocean, tropical breezes, and did I mention the ocean… Throughout the years, my family thought of Hawaii as the ultimate destination for the ultimate dream trip to experience a magical tropical ocean setting that just doesn’t exist at home. What was surprising, however, was the answer that three generations of my family gave to the question “what was the moment you’ll most remember from your Hawaii trip.” Everybody had a two-part answer – and everybody named the same place as one of their “moments.” And all for different – but connected – reasons. The answer? Pearl Harbor.

Visiting Pearl Harbor

My parents celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary with a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Hawaiian Islands. They came back with hours of stories, including the night that they celebrated their actual anniversary at a luau. But what I wasn’t expecting was the impact that their visit to Pearl Harbor made on them. My dad was a World War II Navy pilot who, like so many others, enlisted after December 7, 1941. He had completed two years of college, and after flight training was retained as an officer and flight instructor in Florida. My dad never talked much about these years, just a few stories… until he returned from his very moving experience at Pearl Harbor and his visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. He really opened up about his Naval career, and shared with my family (for the first time) more stories and personal reflections. He talked about time spent with two of his most famous students, baseball players Ted Williams and Bob Kennedy (including a funny story about playing baseball with Bob Kennedy, who was as intent on learning how to throw and bat left-handed as he was on learning to fly, just in case his right hand was somehow injured), the disappearance of his closest friend over the Bermuda Triangle, and the honour of taking part in planned Pacific operations at the end of the war.

Visiting Pearl Harbor

It was a much younger “trip-of-a-lifetime” when I took my nieces, ages 9 and 11, to Hawaii. While I was not surprised that one of their favourite moments was learning to surf at Waikiki, I was truly amazed at the impact their Pearl Harbor visit made on them. They knew “what” Pearl Harbor was, but had no emotional connection – until they went to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and watched the film prior to the USS Arizona Memorial tour. This visit unlocked something within them that instantly tied them to the long-ago World War II stories told by their grandfather, including an opportunity to visualize the plane he flew. The girls brought flower leis with them to the USS Arizona Memorial and silently, and somberly, dropped them into the sea in remembrance. They came away understanding more about their country, more about an era long ago in time, and more about their own family than I ever could have imagined.

And me? Hawaii is one of my favourite places, and I’ve travelled to the islands several times. I would have thought that my most memorable moment involved an engagement ring and miles and miles of solitary beach… or the time I found an 8-week-old golden retriever puppy that had escaped for its big adventure on the sands of Kaanapali… or the night we swam with the manta rays. But it’s not. It is the moment that I experienced the word “poignant” as I watched the faces of my nieces as they solemnly paid tribute to those who gave their lives on December 7, 1941, and realized that three generations had shared a travel moment that would be long-remembered. This is just one example of the power of travel to change lives – and when it is personal, it is cherished forever.

Visiting Pearl Harbor

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