Despite overwhelming odds

At the Arizona Memorial, 1991

Drew and Jeff view the remains of the Arizona’s gun turret #3.
At the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, 1991

“We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still.  Despite overwhelming odds, they fought back heroically, inspiring our nation and putting us on the path to victory.  They are members of that Greatest Generation who overcame the Depression, crossed oceans and stormed the beaches to defeat fascism, and turned adversaries into our closest allies…They remind us that no challenge is too great when Americans stand as one.  All of us owe these men and women a profound debt of gratitude for the freedoms and standard of living we enjoy today.”
President Barack Obama

Jeff has very little to say about my blog, other than protesting when I tell him I’ve posted photo of him, or written about him.  However, I did read to him the blog I posted a couple of days ago, in which I talked about the parallels between fighting a war and fighting cancer.  A few minutes later, he told me about The Ballad of Ira Hayes, a Johnny Cash song he remembered with some emotion in connection with the mention of Iwo Jima.  I told him I could feature the song on my blog for Pearl Harbor Day, but he asked me instead to use the track below,  a poem recorded by Johnny Cash.

Jeff isn’t nearly as fond of music as I am, but he does like Johnny Cash quite a bit, so I agreed to include this recitation as he suggested.  At the time, I didn’t remember that one year ago today, I had chosen to feature one of my own Cash favorites.  On this day of remembrance, the words of the Man in Black seem fitting again.  I hope we will all continue to be inspired by the courage of those who stand firm in the face of overwhelming odds.


  1. Ann

    Love BOTH blogs.
    Please tell Jeff thanks for his suggestion


    • Thank you, Ann! I will tell Jeff you liked it. I know he will appreciate hearing that.

  2. Harbin77

    I would like to thank you for this blog of the USS Arizona and our flag. I too have been to the memorial back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. You can just feel the pride and fear of the men that was trapped below. Showing the peace on the Raged Old Flag also is touching and brings back pride in our country. I had posted about the flag pole I made to fly the flag in my front yard. I had a person ask me why do Americans show so much respect to a flag? I told them what we as Americans had to do so we could have our freedom. I feel that your post explains it so much better and so again I thank you.
    Have a blessed and wonderful day and weekend. Jim

    • Thank you, Jim. I am so happy you like the post. Sometimes I think we as Americans are so like ungrateful children, happily enjoying abundance that was provided through providence and sacrifice of which we would rather not think about or acknowledge. When I hear from people such as you, I realize that there are many who do feel thankful every day. I appreciate your comment today!

  3. Harbin77

    Reblogged this on harbin77 and commented:
    Thank you to all the veterans who have and are still serving our country.

    • Thank you Jim!

  4. Maggie Clure

    Your blog brings back a lot of memories for me. I was only four years old in 1942 when two of my older brothers entered the Army and one entered the Navy! The two who entered the Army were wounded, one severely burned and sent back to the States to spend months in the hospital. The other brother in the Army was wounded twice, but returned to duty both times! My Mother and Father were notified about each incident via telegram through our local telegraph office with very little details! Thinking back to these days, it must have been so difficult for them and others who were notified of wounded sons, not knowing if they were going to live or die!! I remember the sad days waiting to here through letters from my brothers that they were ok. Fortunately, both survived and all three brothers returned home safely! My prayers continue for Jeff, you and the rest of your family! Hugs to you!!

    • Thank you Maggie. Jeff and I have often talked about how much harder military service used to be, when there was no Skype, email or even affordable long distance phone service to keep in touch with family and friends. Your comment reminds us of those times, and the worry and heartache of those who waited at home, hoping and praying their sons and daughters were safe. One of the Red Cross volunteers who came around to visit Jeff was a World War II veteran. He was 86 years young, still cheerful and proud to serve his country, now in a volunteer capacity. Truly they were and are a Great Generation!

  5. It is so great to see Jeff’s ideas and wishes expressed here! Of the dozen U.S. presidents during my lifetime, 10 have served their country with honorable military service. THEY know the “debt of gratitude” owed. It does not require the intense combat experience of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, or Bush,Sr. All who have worn the uniform learn by comraderie with combat veterans “what we owe”. May God bless the handful of Pearl Harbor survivors still with us today. May God bless Colonel Denton, and all who have honorably served.

    • Thank you, Eric.

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I enjoyed these blogs so much today. I will share these today with our family. Perfect, just perfect! Thank y’all….. Sheila

    • Thanks, Sheila! I’m so happy you like them.

  7. Michael

    “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
    Here is a Mandela quote that seems to fit the blog.
    I visited the memorial on my Hawaii tour in 2010. I was at Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe. There was a hallowed silence and many tears.

    • Thanks for including that quote, Mike; I really like it. It is very fitting here. The Arizona memorial is one of the most sobering such monuments I’ve ever seen. I think the NPS handles the logistics well, or at least they used to; they let people know in no uncertain terms that they are visiting an actual gravesite, and should be show due respect.

  8. merry

    Julia, thanks for sharing Johnny Cash’s song. My husband is a big fan of Johnny Cash.
    Hope you and Jeff is having a good day. The winter storm has let up briefly and we ventured out for a visit to a Dollar Store. I stocked up for being house bound but forgot dish detergent.:) Being out dish detergent was good excuse to get…lol

    • I guess you could always use shampoo in a pinch! I remember when I was young, hearing some girls say they washed their hair in dish detergent. Jeff is having an OK day. His fever keeps going up and down, but he seems to feel pretty good. Mostly he says he feels very tired, which is understandable. I have never been a particular fan of Johnny Cash, but I think he was a good guy. Many years ago – like sometime in the mid 60’s – Mama, Al and I went to the airport to meet Daddy’s flight for some reason I have now forgotten. Maybe that was when we had only one car and Mom had needed to use it so we had to drop Daddy off and pick him up. Anyway, as the passengers came through the gate doorway my mother (who was usually a fairly low-key person) shouted “Look Julia, there’s Johnny Cash!” and there he was, all dressed in his black suit, black tie, etc. He was obviously in a hurry, but looked at Mom and smiled and said “Hi!” and then looked at me and smiled and said “Hi!” as he was walking along. I always thought that was a pretty classy way to respond – after all, we did not say “hi” to him! I guess he was accustomed to star-struck people behaving in rather rude ways and staring at him.

  9. Rene

    Just a few days ago, my son showed me an aerial photo of the memorial. I had no idea you could see the ship under the water, it was an amazing sight. I’m looking forward to sharing this photo with him when he gets home.

    I realize this is off-topic for today, but I’d like to ask the community for prayers for my sister. She had surgery to remove a fibroid tumor on Monday and is having complications that may slow her recovery & force a change in carefully made plans for her care the next few weeks. Thank you so much!

    • Yes, I never realized that either about the monument until I was there, looking down into the ruins of the ship. The film they used to show before taking the boat out there was really haunting, too.

      I know many of us will be happy to pray for your sister. My heart goes out to anyone experiencing post-op complications, and until the past year, I never realized how common — and how problematic — they can be. Thanks for letting us know; please keep us posted on how she does.

  10. Thank you to all those wonderful and brave souls. Blessed Be.

    • Thanks so much for visiting and adding your kind thoughts!

  11. Carolyn

    Julia thanks for your blog today. I’m proud of all the men and woman who have served to keep our country free. Happy to know that today they can keep in touch with their loved ones, they are very lucky, while Terry was in Vietnam all we had was the post office. I was told not to watch TV, but I did, and then had to wait for a letter telling me he was okay. Bless all the souls. I just got Terry off to church and I’m at home nursing my shingles. All I can say is What’s next. I have had the vaccine and they told me I would probably have a light case. I have drugs and some pain meds. the pain is bad at times but I hope that it doesn’t get wiworse. that’s about it for today. I hope Jeff is getting better each day. Take care and love and hugs. to all.

    • Shingles! OH NO! I had a very mild case of it years ago, and it was SO painful and irritating. I hope your experience with it is brief.

      I used to tell Drew that when I was a child, the television had daily stories about soldiers being killed in the Vietnam war, so that it became something we expected. I remember thinking “how could that ever be so?” and yet here we are again, where it’s in the news all the time and we grow accustomed to it. I can’t even imagine what it was like during those years, not knowing until you got that letter. To this day, the scene in “Saving Private Ryan” that gets to me most (in a movie filled with terribly traumatic scenes) is the part where the mother looks out her window while washing the dishes and sees the vehicle approaching and just freezes in fear. You can just feel the terror inside her and know that the news is worse than anything she could possibly imagine; three sons gone. Knowing it’s a true story makes it all the more devastating. All that to say, YES, I am proud of all those who served, and serve today, and the families who watch and wait with them. Thanks for being among that number! We love you.

  12. raynard

    Good Afternoon Julia( I can finally stop singing “Let it snow cause we got about 4 inches in the last 3 hours.. Tell Jeff I said “Thanks”. I visited the USS Arizona and was very moved.( No I didnt say”Oprah had the monopoly on tissues lol” That was along with my list here, the most touching to my heart things I seen in my lifetime. The Statue of Liberty ( after missing the 3rd grade time) had me speechless. I did visit the top of Diamond Head while on Oahu.
    While home during my mother’s passing, My second cousin and I “hop, jump& skipped over to The Empire State Building( Is it just me or Frank Sinatra in his last few years”wasn’t singing”NY,NY but receiting it like”spoken word poetry”? I digress. A little know fact( Psst don’t tell I’m known to listen to Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson( Throw in some Tennessee
    Ernie Ford and yes I did watch “Hee Haw, The Duke of Hazzard” and “the lady with the price tag on her hat Minnie Pearl..( Almost said Minnie Mouse). Be blessed

    • Raynard, it’s so funny you should mention Minnie Pearl. She was from the same little neck of the woods where Jeff grew up, Hickman County Tennessee. It really is a small world because the largest town in Hickman County (Centerville) had a population of only 3,644 at the 2010 census. Like you, I was totally overwhelmed when I first saw Lady Liberty. I never did get to the top of the Empire State Building because I always preferred to go to the World Trade Center where we could see all of Manhattan in one glance, looking north. Plus it was easier to fly into EWR and take the transportation through the Holland Tunnel to lower Manhattan and the Battery. When the WTC was destroyed, I felt a bit strange that I mourned not only all the people who were killed, but also the buildings themselves. Willie Nelson is one of a few country stars whose voice and sound I enjoy. I know nothing about Tennessee Ernie Ford except that I grew up hearing people tell me that my Daddy looked like him (people also said he looked like Howard Hughes, Gomez Addams and Clark Gable, so they must have just been looking at hair color and mustache). I’m sitting next to the window in Jeff’s room and it sounds like sleet falling outside now. Not as pretty as snow. I was hoping to get a nice photo of the gazebo at Fisher House; it looked enchanted when we walked out this morning.

  13. I’d never heard that before, thanks for posting it. I’ve never bought any Johnny Cash music but I did see the flick with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon and really loved all the music.

    When we travel, we often like to roam around neighbourhoods and admire the gardens or houses and very often notice a flag. I admire how many people fly your flag on their homes, it’s not really something you see here, I’m not sure why. My husbands dad was in the military and so we have a very large Canadian flag from his funeral. We’ve placed it on our front door for Canada Day.

    I haven’t been to Pearl Harbour since I was in my 20’s. It’s so haunting, I thought. So many young lives lists and then the war, it really changed life in every way a the time. I didn’t realize you had both Veterans Day and Pearl Harbour Day too, that’s interesting. Military Families give up so much to serve. The long periods away and risking their lives, I think they should be paid better (here anyways, it’s terrible).

    • We also have Memorial Day (in May) which is sometimes called Decoration Day, where people honor those who have died, especially those who died in military service. And of course, the Fourth of July, our country’s birthday. Americans are traditionally a fairly patriotic lot, as you have seen with the flags displayed. That patriotism springs from different motives in different people, but the common theme for all of us, I think, is gratitude to live in a land of such abundance and opportunity. I’ve heard it said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.” How true! With all of the problems in our country, very, very few of us would choose to live elsewhere.

      I suppose it’s just a stereotype, but I think of our Canadian neighbors as being more easy-going and less confrontational than most of the USA. Perhaps one has to be a bit hot-headed or at least assertive to be patriotic. Patriotism, as with so many other admirable traits, can be a two-edged sword if it is given priority over everything else. Most of the Americans I know realize that, and temper their patriotism with patience, compassion and a genuine interest in the affairs of other countries. I think the internet has helped us realize how much we have in common with each other, no matter what country we live in or where we grew up.

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