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Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day: Honoring history through today's service

  • Published
  • By Capt. Martin Gerst
  • Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
"A date which will live in infamy."

President Roosevelt broadcast those words in his opening speech to Congress and the world the day following the attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base 69 years ago. These powerful words inspired Congress to declare war within an hour against Japan and its allies.

I recently arrived here in Hawaii to my new duty station at Pacific Air Forces headquarters as a public affairs officer, one of the "lucky few" who are fortunate enough to get an assignment here, or so I was later told during my newcomers brief.

I easily located the immense headquarters building where I would be working, but not so easily did I find my new office. At first glance, I saw chunks of concrete missing from the walls and idly thought this old building must need some work.

I entered the glass doors and meandered through the hallways and up a flight of stairs. I immediately noticed a hole in one of the stair risers.

I knew of the history of the base, but had never come this close to it. I quickly opened my eyes and really took notice of the damage that mars the building. My mind instantly went to thoughts of those who had treaded through these same halls before me so many years ago.

The sight of the many pockmarks and bullet holes serves as a constant reminder of those 2,402 people who lost their lives Dec. 7, 1941. More than 130 medals, including 16 Medals of Honor, were awarded to those who fought most valiantly to defend against the attack. Their readiness and commitment should not be forgotten as we perform our mission today.

It's sometime easy to go about your day-to-day duties and pay no attention to what it means to be an Airman. Every Airman has a job to do, whether it's flying a plane or ensuring families are taken care of. Without each of us, the Air Force mission would suffer. Our ability to defend the homeland, promote stability, deter aggression and swiftly defeat enemies rests on your shoulders.

As our force continues to undergo changes, be that of aircraft, joint-basing or fitness standards, we all must be ready for contingencies at a moment's notice. That means understanding and performing our jobs to the best of our abilities and maintaining a lifestyle of fitness.

When you have the opportunity, look at the job you're doing and look at where you fit into the big picture. Assess whether you're physically and mentally ready to deploy at a moment's notice to Fly, Fight, Win. Ask yourself, are you prepared, should the need arise, to perform heroically to defend your base against an attack?