A couple of years ago, we toured Pearl Harbor, the USS Arizona Memorial, and the Punchbowl National Cemetery. I promised myself I wouldn't cry.
I was wrong.
They have a regular table set up, outside the bookstore on the shore, where survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack sign bio sheets, or if you prefer, autograph any souvenir books and photos you've purchased. I was fortunate enough to meet two of those brave gentlemen that day, both crew members of the USS Arizona who were ashore when the attack happened, and therefore survived. I have to admit my hand was shaking a little
when I shook theirs.
USS Missouri (left) and the USS Arizona Memorial
Those gentlemen were a joy, and they were there to autograph anything purchased at the store. I found myself fascinated during our fairly brief encounter. They were humble and unassuming - as has been every WWII vet I've ever met, including a couple of guys still on active duty when I was in the Navy - and yet the sense of destiny about
them was tangible.
One of the things mentioned by tour guides at the center was that the survivors (there were only 94 remaining as of November 2010) have made a pact: as they die, they are cremated and their ashes placed in canisters which Navy divers take down to the Arizona and place inside. That way, these brave men can be buried with their shipmates. It's all they've ever wanted.