Col. Matt Redding, a commanding officer supporting the efforts of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan, writes a weekly series that appears Mondays on the editorial page of The Evening Sun. The Oxford native has written a special article to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day.
By Col. Matt Redding
HELMAND and NIMROZ PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN – I have been to Pearl Harbor on training visits through the course of my career in the Army, but unlike most visitors to Hawaii, I have never been to the beach.
In my spare time, I strolled along the docks of the Navy base and perimeter of Hickam Field. I tried to imagine the calm, beautiful morning in 1941 which was broken suddenly by the drone and arrival of bombers, fighters and torpedo planes. I do not believe in ghosts, but it was a remarkable experience for me. I heard the calm breeze in the trees, and saw the now modern and impressive fleet at dock. Then as the morning mist blew off the harbor, I imagined a whisper in the wind: “Remember.”
Today, the wind in Helmand blows over Camp Leatherneck and I am remembering my trip to the beautiful island state. Decades have passed since the attack on Pearl Harbor, but I feel the same tug at the back of my stomach to remember. But remember what?
I choose to remember that the world is a dangerous place. Americans do not need to live in fear, but neither should they turn a blind eye toward ambition, avarice and enmity. The darkest reaches of the human condition breed violence and instability. Whether it is the clash of nations, as was the case at Pearl Harbor, or the clash of extremist values; the flash point for violence always remains a threat to those who are not vigilant.
I choose to remember that America’s position in the world is not something we can take for granted. Our position prior to Pearl Harbor was described by some as a “slumbering giant.” The decision to attack Pearl Harbor was hotly debated inside Japan and, once made, brought us out of our complacent state and into direct action against a declared enemy. No matter how wealthy or affluent a society, its status and power have to be constantly reinvented. Our position as a world leader makes us more of a target for the envy of others, and many are whom that would glory in our demise.
I choose to remember that America’s strength lies not in her Army or Navy, but in her principles and values. The citizens of America make her strong – and if she needs defending, then there have always been those who would answer the call. The core of our strength lies in our ability to govern ourselves, work hard and respect diversity. The thread that holds our patchwork society together is that we are Americans first, and everything else second. Life in our society is “advanced citizenship” and well worth the effort.
The tug of the ghostly wind has subsided a bit in my stomach and the memory of my dockside stroll in Hawaii makes me remember one more thing. The men who defended their ships and flew those planes in battle that terrible December morning are represented well here today in Helmand. I remember their sacrifice and service – and am humbled by this new generation who stand between danger and the harbors of liberty in our blessed home.
God Bless America.
Melissa deCordova is editor of this series.