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Learning Lessons From Pearl Harbor

Nearly all of those who were first-hand witnesses to the events of Dec. 7, 1941 are now gone. Certainly those who were old enough to fight after the attack on Pearl Harbor are leaving us quickly. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, approximately 240,000 of the 16 million Americans who fought in World War II are still alive.

Today, on the 80th anniversary of that fateful day that changed the world, a day we now know as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day,” we honor those 2,403 killed when the Japanese surprised a small base in what was then a U.S. territory. We remember that, in declaring war and joining the Allies in World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph — so help us God.”

And they did.

The Greatest Generation saved the world, came home and fueled an incredibly prosperous decade that built the America we know today. Then they turned it over to the rest of us.

So much has changed since then. The Japanese are now among our strongest allies, and the financial partnerships they have formed in this country have been of tremendous benefit to the Mountain State. Germany and Italy, too, are among our friends.

Remaining World War II veterans’ blood must boil when they watch Americans parade through streets carrying Nazi banners and chanting slogans against which the Greatest Generation fought. Yet they know, disgusting as such a sight may be, they fought for a country in which people are free to express whatever views they wish.

So today, on this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, take a moment to think about those lessons — some of which appear to have gotten lost — that we must learn from the 16 million Americans (and their families back home) who went to war after that horrible day. Study the history of that day, and how it changed our nation. It is the very least we can do to repay them.

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