By Ralph Trenary
The past few weeks have presented some eye-opening experiences. The first was the big Veteran’s Day observance in Loveland, then we paid a visit to my 101-year-old grandfather for Thanksgiving, and finally I contributed “Echo Taps” to the Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony.
It was during that last event that my memories and not too often subdued analytical pre-occupations shifted into high gear. A great cascade of memories and events drove home the realization that the attack on Pearl Harbor 67 years ago had a significant impact on my life, three generations later.
Both of my parents were toddlers on Dec. 7, 1941. I was fortunate to talk to a great-aunt about the impacts of that day on our family during Thanksgiving. Those personal stories can be profoundly moving and have a lasting impact. Then I also remembered that before I graduated from UNC (Greeley, not that east-coast bunch) there was a similar discussion with my grandfather.
That was the twenty-year-old memory that sparked a deeper analysis of the lessons of Pearl Harbor. What emerged were memories from school in the 1970s and my habits watching television and going to movies.
First there was a social studies book report about Pearl Harbor. I can’t remember that book’s title, but I recall that it was one of the first hardcover books that I read that wasn’t a classroom textbook. After that I was hooked and grabbed anything on the subject that crossed my path.
I still have the Battleship Arizona model that I built as a teenager, and realize that a visit to that sunken tomb’s memorial was a highlight of my only trip to Hawaii. Then there were the TV shows and movies.
One of the realities of 1970s TV along the Colorado Front Range was the standard re-run of “The World at War” on Channel 2. There’s no telling how many times I avoided other responsibilities, like studying or trumpet practice, to watch any episode connected with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“Tora, Tora, Tora” was a television event for me and a handful of other close friends. The same was true years later for watching the “Winds of War” mini-series. There were also multiple theater viewings of Midway and even the science fiction genre “The Final Countdown.”
Did this influence my decision to enlist in the Colorado Guard in 1980? Not exclusively, because there are numerous other factors that led to that pivotal action. But, I can now see that over the past 30 years the events of that day in Hawaii have impacted my life.
One theme of last Sunday’s observance was the necessity of remembering the lessons of history. While I have always agreed with this philosophy I’m increasingly convinced that significant historical events can, and will, have the power to guide the decisions of young people throughout future generations. The question for parents, teachers, community leaders and others with a true concern for the future of our nation is what lessons will lead today’s young people to make decisions on the path they will follow in life?
My preference for those lessons originates from the facts and realities of history, rather than the fluff of “reality” TV and bizarrely crude video games. It’s now clear to me that I will always remember that 2,345 Americans lost their lives in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. This basic realization carries a lot more value for me than checking who’s still on the island or computerized body-counts of ogres and aliens.