A day to rise, to salute, to re­flect

The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT) - - OPINION -

As Bob Dole arose from his wheel­chair to salute Ge­orge H.W. Bush’s cas­ket in the Capi­tol Ro­tunda Tues­day, he reached past decades of their po­lit­i­cal ri­valry to re­mind Amer­i­cans they were World War II he­roes first. Dole raised his left arm to his fore­head, a ne­ces­sity be­cause the Ger­man ma­chine gun fire that caught him in the back and right arm has left his other hand use­less since he led a charge on a hill near Florence, Italy, on April 14, 1945.

Both men were drawn into the war by events that oc­curred 77 years ago to­day, when our na­tion’s hand was forced by Japan’s sur­prise at­tack on a U.S. naval base at Pearl Har­bor, killing more than 2,400 Amer­i­cans.

Dole’s silent ges­ture is all the mo­ti­va­tion any Amer­i­can should need to take pause on this day.

This is a day when we tra­di­tion­ally urge Amer­i­cans to en­sure Dec. 7, 1941 is never down­graded to a vex­ing trivia ques­tion. It is a day that de­mands re­li­able oral his­tory as we lose our eye­wit­nesses.

Can you imag­ine a time when Sept. 11, 2001 is not rec­og­nized with dig­nity? Young gen­er­a­tions al­ready rely on per­sonal nar­ra­tives that mine emo­tion, but they can also be di­rected to video ac­counts that did not ex­ist 77 years. Di­min­ished recog­ni­tion of 9/11 seems im­pos­si­ble, but it will hap­pen.

These are two days when our states fused into taut unity.

Many com­mu­ni­ties felt it on a more im­me­di­ate level as well in the hours af­ter the Pearl Har­bor at­tack, which claimed the lives of 15 Con­necti­cut res­i­dents, in­clud­ing two from Stam­ford, two from Bridge­port and one each from Darien and New Haven.

Decades be­fore the im­me­di­acy of so­cial me­dia, anx­ious fam­i­lies awaited grim news.

U.S. Army Air Corps avi­a­tion me­chanic Vin­cent Ho­ran of Stam­ford was re­ported in news­pa­pers as the first known ca­su­alty. Be­fore the Stam­ford Ad­vo­cate hit the streets, an ed­i­tor and the po­lice chief knocked on his fam­ily’s door to de­liver the news.

Dole, a long­time pow­er­ful U.S. sen­a­tor, honored Bush as the last pres­i­dent to serve in World War II. They were mem­bers of a gen­er­a­tion that con­tin­ued to serve their na­tion af­ter war’s end.

Three decades ago, half of the 535 mem­bers of Congress were mil­i­tary vet­er­ans. In 1971, the per­cent­age was 73 per­cent. The 2017 class was less than 19 per­cent. The in­com­ing group drops an­other seven to 95, dip­ping to 18 per­cent.

But there is a promis­ing shift in the tide, bring­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of vet­er­ans to Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The vet­er­ans in the next Congress in­cludes a record six fe­males.

They take of­fice at a time when Amer­i­can he­roes re­main as vi­tal as our need to re­spect our past. We cling to the events of Dec. 7, 1941 as an an­chor to the re­al­ity that it could hap­pen again.

From the slaugh­ter of Amer­i­can lives came one re­sponse. The same one Dole ex­hib­ited 77 years later; the same one this day will al­ways call for: Re­solve.

This is a day when we tra­di­tion­ally urge Amer­i­cans to en­sure Dec. 7, 1941 is never down­graded to a vex­ing trivia ques­tion. It is a day that de­mands re­li­able oral his­tory as we lose our eye­wit­nesses.

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