Veterans – Thanksgiving – Remembrance ‘We will always be thankful’

Rear Adm. Brian Fort
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

This year during Veterans Day weekend I had the opportunity to travel back to my hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas for an executive engagement visit coordinated by the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

During my visit I talked story with students at my high school, spoke with leaders at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, briefed members of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, visited with the dean of the Clinton School of Public Service, met with Marines who work on C-130s at Little Rock Air Force Base, toured a veteran-owned manufacturing plant, and met with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, among others.

Gov. Hutchinson invited me to represent our Navy as part of the state’s Bells of Peace: World War I Remembrance Day, commemorating the centennial of the end of the First World War. During that ceremony I reflected on how much the world has changed since 1918 and how important it is for each generation to learn about history.

World War I was to be the war that ended all wars, but as we know, it just set the stage for the Second World War that ignited, for the United States, here in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

At the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum I went aboard the tugboat Hoga — still afloat and on display in landlocked Arkansas — and learned more about the history of the last remaining vessel from the Pearl Harbor attack. Hoga sprang into action on Dec. 7th. Among her heroic actions over the first 72 hours of the war, she helped fight fires on USS Arizona, pulled the repair ship USS Vestal from the burning Arizona, and pushed the sinking USS Nevada safely away from the channel and the narrow entrance to Pearl Harbor.

The submarine USS Razorback, which was in Tokyo Bay during Imperial Japan’s surrender in 1945, is also on display at the museum. Both Hoga and Razorback represent bookends to the beginning and end of World War II, much like the USS Arizona Memorial and Battleship Missouri Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam today.

It was a true honor to represent our Navy and to see how much my hometown of Little Rock supports our veterans, our mission and our active duty service members and their families. It’s a mission every service man and woman can do, anytime a home-town is visited, in or out of uniform, active duty, retired, or even after just one tour of duty.

It’s always struck me as completely appropriate that Thanksgiving falls so close to Veterans Day. We should all be thankful for the service and sacrifice of our veterans.

We enjoy a more peaceful world and safer nation thanks to those who are willing to put their lives on the line for all Americans. Let’s also be thankful for our brothers and sisters, past and present, and their families — who are not able to share the warmth of a Thanksgiving table together this year.

Of course, each year Veterans Day and Thanksgiving are followed quickly by Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7.

In two weeks we will commemorate 77 years since the fateful day that brought our nation into World War II, a war which ultimately turned mortal enemies, including Japan and Germany, into our closest of allies and friends today. In the days ahead you will no doubt have a chance to see and meet some WWII veterans, including Pearl Harbor survivors.

The brave veterans of World War II, including one of my grandfathers who served in the Army and one of my wife’s grandfathers who served right here in Pearl Harbor, gave us a lasting peace we are committed to preserve. They forged the future. We will always remember their legacy, service and sacrifice here at Pearl Harbor, and we will always be thankful.

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Category: Commentary