Never Forget

And then you see her on the port quarter, what little there is to see of her above the water from an acute angle: The number 3 barbette of the USS Arizona, the watery graveyard of 1100 men and a mute testament both to perfidy and unpreparedness. Sixty-odd years after she went down, little rainbow pools of oil still bubble to the surface from within trapped spaces and voids, footless passageways embracing the mouldering bones of sailors whose names are known but to God. The old salts say that these are her tears of rage and anguish, her tears of loss and bereavement. They say that she is weeping. They say that she is weeping still.

These melancholy thoughts are interrupted by the trilling sound of a bosun’s whistle on the 5MC, two short blasts – “Attention to port!” The flight deck snaps to attention. One short blast follows – “Hand salute!” A long moment passes in the heat, the sweat suddenly liberated, trickling down your back as your arm goes up and holds, holds. A silent and expectant moment as one great ship glides softly past another, a thousand crewman rendering honors to another thousand from a far different time, from a far different land. The moment stretches, breaks, and at last is over: Two short blasts – “Ready, two!” And finally, three blasts – “Carry on.”

According to immutable naval custom, the junior ship initiates the rendering of passing honors, while the senior ship returns it. But senior though she may be, there will never again be a salute returned from onboard Arizona. No bosun’s pipe echoes across the water. No one mans her rails. My brothers and I took one long look back at the memorial receding behind us, exchanged silent glances between ourselves, saying with our eyes the things we could never allow ourselves to say out loud. Pursed our lips and went below in quiet introspection. It wouldn’t last forever – we were after all, young and careless. But we wouldn’t forget that moment, not ever.

We would remember.

These aren’t my words. They were penned by Lex. But they perfectly capture manning the rail on the way into Pearl.

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