My first memories of war were on a cold gray Sunday afternoon in December in 1941. Our family was gathered at my Grandfather's house on the Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington, North Carolina enjoying the closeness of our family ties.
I was barely five years old, the only grandchild at the time and with my mother's three siblings unmarried and living at home, I was pretty much the center of attention. So, a trip to my grandparent's house was fun and games for me.
But, suddenly that Sunday afternoon the atmosphere became quiet and pensive as the family gathered around my grandmother's big floor model radio giving their undivided attention to the news flash that had interrupted the regular Sunday programming.
The Japanese Imperial Air Force had bombed a U.S. Naval Base in a place called Pearl Harbor.
I was much too young to realize the gravity of what had just happened in that strange, far away place. But, I knew by the countenances and demeanor of the adults that something very serious had taken place.
President Roosevelt came on the radio and in his fatherly voice reassured the nation that the United States of America would fight and win whatever battles were forced on us and that all we had to fear was fear itself.
Things started happening really fast then and the war became very real to the people of coastal Carolina. My grandfather became an Air Raid Warden, the top half of all car headlights had to be painted black to make them hard to see from the air, rationing was introduced and young men enlisted in the armed services in droves.
Wilmington was a seaport, and tankers and cargo ships that headed out through the mouth of the Cape Fear River and across the Atlantic to the troops were attacked just off our shores by German U-boats, sometimes so close the flames of the battle could be seen on the horizon of our local beaches.
We listened to Gabriel Heater and other on the scene combat reporters embedded with our troops who gave a first hand report of how the war was going. The fighting was fierce, casualty lists grew long and broken hearted mothers hung gold stars in their windows and continued on, praying for other mother's sons and daughters to come home safely.
Everybody was involved in the war effort. Young children gathered scrap metal and tin cans, mothers saved used nylon stockings, cooking grease and old newspapers, and all somehow mysteriously played some small role in winning the war.
Even on days when the fighting was going badly and the casualty lists were long, we said our prayers and did our parts knowing in our hearts that no Rising Sun or swastika would ever fly above our beloved United States of America.
I learned at a very early age that two things and two things alone protect America from those who seek to destroy it - the grace of Almighty God and the United States Military.
It was that way in 1941, it is still that way in 2014 and will remain that way as long as the United States of America remains.
Our way of life, our freedom, our very existence sets on the cornerstone of a strong national defense and the men and women, the patriots who stand between us and the enemies who would destroy us.
Nobody serves in the United States Armed Forces without paying a price: the separation, the loneliness, the constant danger and, sometimes, the ultimate price of their very lives.
As we enter this season where we set aside a day to honor all the men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom in all the wars our great nation has fought, let us remember with respect, honor and most of all gratitude, not only those who gave it all but also all who have, are and will be a part of the greatest military the world has ever known.
Ladies and gentlemen of the military, then, now and future, I salute you and with all my heart say thank you for your service, your sacrifice and your patriotism.
God Bless America
May 22, 2014