From Pearl Harbor to the Po and Beyond: We Remember

Anthem For America And Its Veterans of WWII, And Especially For Hawaii

Hawaii Herald, 8/18/1995

By Ben Tamashiro

Author’s Note: This free verse is really for the sweep of American history, from the battle of Horseshoe Bend in the American Indian war to Casino and all the other battles we have engaged in up to this day: a homage to all who have fought and died for freedom’s sake.

Liberty took one hell of a beating that Sunday morning. But from out of the mud of Pearl Harbor, the broken runways of Hickam Field and Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station and the wonder of how we had let ourselves down, we took up the challenge, storming everything from land, sea and sky-from Pearl Harbor to the Po, through Europe, the Pacific, whereverthe only way to stop a world at war.

The times unbelievable: The dead picked off the churning waves, blown out of the sky, or slung onto the backs of mules to be carried down steep mountain trails; cities in anguish as bombs rained down in new standards of destruction.

Then Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a war with its own moral code. It brought finis, however, to the awful cycle of over three years and eight months of unmitigated hell. Can we ever forget the sights and sounds of the horrors of that inferno?

The shriek of artillery shells overhead as they wiped out targets just yards ahead of the charging infantry; fiery salvos from line of ships softening up the beaches for invasion forces; grasping at rocks and shrubs to climb sheer rock cliffs; nights lit up by haystacks and houses set afire by tracer bullets; changing frontlines marked by corresponding changes in locations of field hospitals and battlefield graves.

Graves now in Punchbowl, our neighbor islands, elsewhere: Comrades-in-arms who fought and died so nobly on ships and planes and on the battlefields — May you rest in peace, heroes of our generation. We remember.

And there were the many others, men and women everywhere, who gave of their services or were called up in the draft: Plantation sugarcane worker, fisherman, auto mech, salesman, YMCA worker, a minister or two, to name but a few.

And steel worker, carpenter, teacher, government worker, dentist, cook, doctor, everyone; none brought up to fight. But these were perilous times, as much as at any time in the history of our young nation. And when it was all over, we looked around at what we had done together, as neighbors, friends and allies. Technology had given us the guns but the spirit was ours alone.

For you who are to follow, uphold that spirit by choosing to travel the same high and open road they traveled on, the one disdained by tyrant, dictator. And if challenged, be as valiant and magnificent as they had lived it.

As for finishing the job they had begun, it seems beyond the ken of mankind so we keep marching, watching, listening; each step we take seemingly reminding us that despite it all, the human race is not a bad idea and is worth saving.

So again we turn to hope, about America as the land of the free, that it’s up to us to keep it so. But it’s your voice we keep hearing on this day as we march down Kalakaua Avenue to the swing of “Koni Au, Koni Au” with its upbeat tempo. This is your parade. For us, it may be the last such but we’ve had our day too and now we’re ready to pass on our memories to those for whom the future beckons.

Play on, then, ye sons and daughters of America. Raise high your hopes for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is your challenge. And may there be no more Pearl Harbors to the Po, or anywheres.

Aloha. And God bless everyone.