My Uncle John was just 16 years old on December 7, 1941. As we all know, the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on that day. My Uncle John (really a great Uncle) decided that he was going to defend his Country. He went to town and waited in line at the closest military recruiter’s office. By the time he got into that line, he was so far back, it took him three days to get to the front of it.

Once in the recruiter’s office, he lied about his age to enlist in the United States Navy. He was then sent home and told that the military was not equipped to handle the sudden influx of new recruits, and he would have to wait his turn. A week later, he was on a train headed for boot camp. I am not sure where he went to boot camp, but I remember that he said that it was less than a month long.

Uncle John was put on a ship as a passenger, and arrived in Pearl Harbor Hawaii in the first week of February. He was amazed that there was still so much destruction from the attacks that had happened just three months earlier. He was there only a few days when he was assigned to his first ship, a destroyer. Three weeks later, it was sunk out from under him. He was rescued, and was sent to a second ship, and two years later, that ship was sunk out from under him as well. His actions won him a purple heart and a couple of other citations that I cannot recall.

He stayed in the Navy after the war, and eventually retired in 1967, after 25 years of service. He was 41 years old. He remained in Norfolk for the rest of his life, working at the Navy Shipyards until he retired a second time in 1982, at the age of 56. He was classified as disabled.

I went to visit him several times during the 5 years I myself was stationed in Norfolk. He was a personable guy with a lot of interesting stories. He is dead now, as the greatest generation slowly fades away. Today is a day of remembrance. December 7, 1941. The day our greatest generation rose to the call of their nation.

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