Enjoyed your Corner article on the Pearl Harbor remembrance at Fredericksburg. I’m a retired U.S. Navy CPO and a Texan and was stationed at Pearl Harbor three times in my career. I used to occasionally don my dress whites and visit the USS Arizona Memorial. My uniform was a sure draw for former Sailors to come up and speak (as I knew it would) and I had the honor and pleasure to speak not only with many survivors of the Dec 7th attack but men who fought throughout the Pacific, Destroyermen, Submariners, Battleship Sailors, Amphibs, Corpmen and Seabees They were always quiet and modest as they described the harrowing events they lived through, always denying they were brave if I made any attempt to praise their service. It seemed they always knew someone who “was the bravest man I ever knew” or would reply that the REAL heroes were those that never returned.
One occasion that I will always carry with me was in 1992, I met a man who was in the USS Nevada that fateful Sunday morning. We talked as he and his wife waited to board the launch that took visitors to the memorial.
I won’t go into details but he definitely saw and did a lot. We didn’t realize it at the time but we visited for over two hours. When he excused himself, his wife took his place beside me. I apologized for taking up so much of their time but she took my hand and thanked me. I asked why and she replied that they had been married almost 60 years but that her husband had always refused to speak of that day and that she learned much about him that she never knew.
She continued that this visit was their first and last, an opportunity for her husband to say farewell to something that had shaped him and to honor his shipmates. She said she could see a burden lift from his shoulders as he related to me that which he kept so long hidden. When he returned we all shook hands and parted. If his wife had not spoken I never would have known for he came from a generation of men that kept such things to themselves. I will never forget that day and the honor that was granted me. A Sailor of one generation being there for one who had walked the decks before him.