Pearl Harbor a lesson to remember

Seventy years ago today, a peaceful Sunday morning suddenly turned into a hellish nightmare.

Japanese air forces swooped in from the sky, bombing Pearl Harbor. More than 3,500 Americans died or were wounded in the surprise attack. The United States’ Pacific Fleet was decimated. American military personnel fought back with what they had available, but the crippling blow had been struck.

Or so the Axis thought.

The preemptive strike by the Japanese was designed to deliver a felling blow before America even entered the world war that was raging in the Eastern Hemisphere. Allied with Germany and Italy, Japan’s intention was to reinforce its domination of the Pacific by taking out the biggest threat it saw.

In the course of history, nations have fallen under lesser attacks than what the United States absorbed that day. America was a crossroads. It could have taken the beating, fallen in line and waited its turn. Or, it could get up and take the fight back to its enemies.

History shows the course we, as a nation, chose to take.

Rather than accept the fate of an also-ran, America grieved for its lost sons and daughters, rolled up its sleeves and became a superpower.

The debate about whether this was a European war or a second world war was over. Americans came together and rebuilt our military. Those who weren’t able to go overseas and fight made whatever sacrifices they had to in order to ensure our military personnel had what they needed to repel the forces intent on world domination.

Patriotism was at an all-time high. America’s trademark can-do attitude was at fever pitch. Incredibly long odds against success were shortened with each tick of the clock.

America got what it had to have to survive — its Greatest Generation emerged.

It should be no surprise that as the survivors of that attack on Pearl Harbor, many now in their 90s, near the end of their lives, some are considering returning to the island for their final resting place beside their comrades who died.

Seven decades have passed since that fateful day. America has endured other wars and a deadly attack on our home soil on Sept. 11, 2001, another reminder that we have enemies who hate the freedom that America stands for, enemies who will do whatever they can to strike at our nation’s heart in hopes of killing those freedoms.

It’s often been said that freedom isn’t free. As Americans, we can never allow ourselves to forget that. We owe it to those who paid steep prices to remain vigilant, to protect these precious freedoms that continue to shine brightly in an often too-dark world.

It’s a debt we owe, and one we should be proud to pay.