**FILE** USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Oahu (Wikimedia Commons)
**FILE** USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Oahu (Wikimedia Commons)

While most of us only remember Dec. 7, 1941, from our history lessons, there remains a small cadre of men and women who actually recall that horrific day and what followed. They were on the front line.

But to put it into perspective, for those who were alive 80 years ago, whether they were members of the military or civilians, the shocking news of an attack on U.S. soil by a foreign power stunned Americans as much as the 9/11 attacks did to U.S. citizens in more recent history.

After Japan launched a surprise attack on a U.S. naval base in Hawaii, America was forced to retaliate by entering World War II. As he issued a nationwide call to arms, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the event and day as a “date that will live in infamy.”

Eighty years later, Americans held special ceremonies in Hawaii, in Washington, D.C., and in cities big and small on Tuesday, Dec. 7 to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the attack.

In just a matter of hours, the death toll would escalate in breathtaking proportion, climbing to a total of 2,335 killed including 2,008 navy personnel, 109 marines, 218 army soldiers and 68 civilians, making the total count of fatalities 2,403 people.

Like the 9/11 attacks, America had falsely believed prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, that we were somehow protected from the kind of battles that raged in countries like Europe. But we were wrong.

There’s nothing pretty about war even with the pomp and circumstance, the parades and the decorative uniforms worn by those who serve. Just ask the few remaining veterans, now mostly in their 90s, who survived Pearl Harbor and World War II.

For some, they will never be able to erase the images of devastation and death which engulfed them and cost many of their colleagues their lives. For others, the scars they carry serve as a constant reminder of the horrors of war, of that day in December 1941 and the days, months and years which followed until the war’s end.

We owe the veterans of Pearl Harbor and World War II our gratitude. Without their service and sacrifice, America would be a very different country. In fact, we should be grateful to all of the men and women who have served or currently serve in the armed forces because of their willingness to pay the ultimate to protect our nation and to guarantee our freedom.

We salute you all!

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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