Before there was September 11, 2001, there was December 7, 1941 a date that defined not just a generation, but a nation.
Seventy-five years later we still remember President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, when he famously described the sneak attack on the United States as a “date which will live in infamy.”
And it has lived on – lived on for the many volunteers who rushed to recruiting offices in the days and weeks following the attack. Lived on for the families of those brave men and women who fought for freedom, and lived on for their descendants of those veterans these many decades later.
That long-ago Sunday morning began like any other on the sunny and serene Hawaiian Islands.
But the illusion of peace was shattered shortly before 8 am, when the first Japanese bombers and torpedo planes dropped their deadly cargo on the unprepared ships, naval yard and airfields at Pearl Harbor.
When it was over – just hours later – 2,403 Americans lay dead.
The shock of Pearl Harbor was as great as the shock of the attack on the World Trade Center 60 years later. A nation that had been divided before the attack came together to defeat an enemy and preserve freedom in the world.
Most of the men who fought that morning are gone now, but their memory persists, and it must always persist.
We will never forget our veterans who fought in World War II and in so many other wars before and since. Men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Seventy-five years ago the United States entered a conflict to end tyranny in the world. Today, our brave men and women are defending their nation from new threats to peace.
Like those first recruits who signed up in late 1941, today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are volunteers.
From the Persian Gulf to North Korea, our United States military is prepared to protect our interests, and the interests of our friends and allies around the globe.
We now have more than 5,300 troops in Iraq, fighting against the evil Islamic terrorists of ISIS.
Our young men and women are also playing a vital role in suppressing tyranny in Syria.
Today’s military has a job to do, just as it did in the last weeks of 1941. And like their grandfathers and great-grandfathers before them, this generation of men and women in uniform will return victorious.
So, as the holiday season approaches, please join me both in remembering December 7, 1941 and in honoring today’s fighting men and women who remain in harm’s way so we and our families can be forever free.