By Pfc. Justin Mills, 3rd Sustainment Brigade Public AffairsNovember 30, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - The sun slowly rises, casting shadows across the island and warming the skin of those below. Palm trees sway and the scent of the ocean floats amidst a gentle breeze. Waves can be heard crashing along the shore as the tide comes and goes.
Suddenly this serene morning is interrupted by a noise that does not belong; a noise that will change this island paradise, America and the world, forever.
The date was December 7, 1941, "A date," said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then President of the United States of America, … "which will live in infamy."
Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, which was launched as a preventive measure to keep America out of the war, left 2,402 Americans dead and 1,282 wounded.
The attack shocked and infuriated the American people but also served to unite a nation.
Contrary to Japan's desired outcome, Americans rallied behind their president and shortly after the attack America entered the war in both the Pacific and European theaters.
I can remember looking through my grandfather's things after he had passed away and finding the front page of a newspaper that had an article declaring war shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I had never thought about the attack aside from what I had learned in school and like most teenagers who know everything just assumed it was in the past and could never happen again.
It was a few years later that I, like so many others, watched through tear-filled eyes as two airliners cut through the New York skyline before finding their targets … the World Trade Center.
It wasn't until September 11, 2001, another "date which will live in infamy," that the full weight of what had happened on a warm December morning in 1941 really hit home for me.
I began to research the attack on Pearl Harbor and learned that it had been the first attack on American soil since the War of 1812. I was also struck by the similarities between 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, most notably that both attacks had occurred during a perceived time of peace and thrust Americans into wars where their strength was desperately needed.
Both attacks also served to unite a country that had become more divided in our ever-changing ideals. Although there was a draft in place during World War Two, approximately six million Americans enlisted in the Armed Forces, almost half of the fighting force at the time.
This mirrors the effect September 11 had on the people of the United States as everyone who serves today enlisted of their own free will and many, like myself, enlisted during a time of war knowing that at some point in our military career we will go overseas to fight for our country.
The remnants of these attacks can still be seen today, not only in the monuments that stand in silent remembrance of loved ones lost and heroes born, but in the hearts of those who watched helplessly as those horrific events occurred.
I'd like to encourage everyone to remember our past because it has made us who we are today.
Every day we put on this uniform we honor not only those who gave their lives defending our country during the attack on Pearl Harbor but also all those who have served before us.
For many of us it is because of those brave individuals that we raised our hand and took the oath to continue to fight for the freedom of people all over the world and in defense of this great nation.