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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, June 8, 2001

Island Voices
Thanks, veterans, for the freedom

By Alan Reid
O'ahu resident

I attended the opening of "Pearl Harbor" as an official escort to one of the Doolittle Raiders. The event was truly memorable.

The USS Stennis had what must have been one of its finest hours. Disney produced another overstated, tasteful event that would be hard to forget even if one wanted to. The fireworks display dwarfed any 4th of July event I can remember.

But the most memorable part of the program was the honor given to the surviving members of the naval nursing corps, the Pearl Harbor survivors and the Doolittle Raiders.

What a fitting tribute to these amazing individuals and the thousands like them who defended America when there was no one else. The men I spent time with didn't see themselves as heroes. One Raider said it was something that needed to be done and he could fly the plane.

I was in high school when the Vietnam War ended for us. I remember the death and injured counts that were related each week on the news. Many of my friends remember the loss of family, friends and neighbors to the Korean War. My father was a veteran of World War II.

But my children have no such memories. And with the lack of memories comes the danger of a loss of appreciation for the price that was paid for them. But here, this one night, for a few hours, truly great heroes who rose from the ranks of common citizens gathered to be honored and thanked. How fitting. How appropriate.

I rode back to the hotel with Lt. Col. (Ret.) Richard Cole and his wife. I said goodbye to them at the hotel entrance, thanked them for the opportunity to accompany them and felt embarrassed that they felt the need to thank me. I then went to the car I bought last year because I wanted to. I turned on the radio and listened to a late-night news report that wasn't censored by the government. I drove to my home in the neighborhood that my wife and I chose to live in. I checked on my seven children who were peacefully sleeping, ignorant of the despair and hopelessness that accompany tyranny.

So, thanks Disney. It was a great night. Please tell Mickey and the whole gang that they did it again. Thanks to the men and women of the USS Stennis. You were perfect hosts.

But, most especially, thanks veterans, both living and passed on. As a parent and citizen, I thank you for the freedom my family enjoys.