Friday, December 7, 2007

Remembering Pearl Harbor

What better way to start this blog rolling than to pay tribute to PEARL HARBOR!

It’s been over 20 years since I’ve shook the hands of a Pearl Harbor veteran. Each year these returning veterans are dwindling in numbers… One of these days no more handshakes…

How can I ever forget their eyes, their hugs, their tears…

I was being trained to drive President Hoover’s private yacht. A charming wooden boat similar in size to the 50-foot gray boats I had been driving in Ford Island. My earlier job was transporting military personnel from island to island. Back in the 1980’s there were no bridges to connect the islands, so my job consisted of radio dispatching from the boathouse, training personnel, and transporting passengers night and day, rain or shine, storm or gale. Other than dependency on boats to get around, the only other option was to hop the ferry at the end of the island.

I loved driving the President’s yacht and transporting 50 passengers at a time to the memorial. I had been upgraded from the dusty boathouse and blue dungarees, to full military dress whites, shiny black shoes, and black beret. What an honor and privilege. Before long, the Navy upgraded Hoover’s yacht to two shiny white 75-foot twin engine tour boats enabling us to transport 200 passengers at a time.

But, my heart yearned for the boathouse again… I missed getting my hands dirty, waving at the passing submarines, radioing incoming ships, and saluting the officers. I was meant to wear my blues… I loved the rare times when my boat was empty and I was racing across the harbor. Those quiet moments on the bow as my partner manned the helm. I felt like I was on the Titanic, looking over the waves, feeling on top of the world. Every so often, catching sight of a sea turtle, the wind blowing against my face and the scent of nearby palms… how heavenly the islands smelt!

I’d catch a glimpse of the white tour boats as they transported the visitors to the memorial… How I loved Pearl Harbor…

To this day, I cannot smell diesel fuel, or taste the sea on my lips, without remembering the boats… the veterans, or the history…

Within a year or so, I will be returning to the islands with my own family. My own memories creased upon my forehead, the pride as I watch Old Glory swishing over the stern.

I don’t like changes. With sadness I will gaze over Ford Island. The new bridges, the housing, the landmarks gone… The only thing unchanged is the Arizona. Still embalmed, still intact… A grave reminder of our past.

Water Transportation - Boathouse - Ford Island

From the airplane

No comments: