Pearl Harbor Memorial Dedication
January 15, 2011
Northern California Veterans Cemetery
The following is the speech that was delivered by Senior Chief Petty Officer Rob Burroughs on January 15, 2011 at the Dedication of the Pearl Harbor Memorial at the Northern California Veterans Cemetary in Igo, California.
Honored guests, friends, Veterans and most importantly OUR PEARL HARBOR SURVIVORS that are here with us today....
It is truly an honor to stand before you on this solemn and important occasion to remember our fallen....to honor our Veterans of the Pacific Campaign and take stock of our future....as we reflect upon the infamous tragedy of December 7, 1941 and as we dedicate this monument here today.
For 69 years, the attack on Pearl Harbor has been central to our concept of a National tragedy and our National conviction. In many ways it touched nearly every American in the United States....On the USS Arizona, hundreds were killed in barely more than an instant....All told, hundreds more would die soon after....And the individual stories of loss were almost greater than anyone could imagine in 20th Century America.
For example, there were 36 sets of brothers assigned to the USS Arizona alone. Of those 72 men, 61 perished in the attack and only a single set survived.
When you step onto the Arizona Memorial today....and walk amidst that dappled pattern of shadows and sunlight, where the only sounds are....whispered words....the lapping of the waves....and the snapping of our flag above....The unmistakable reality of loss is captured in our memory....It is impossible to not be moved by the impact of those names carved into the cold stone of the memorial shine room.
And there is nothing more striking to me....than the new names you find to the lower left of the Memorials Wall....many of the Arizona survivors have returned to be entombed with their shipmates....reunited at last....in the inevitable finality of death...despite the separation of decades....it is there....that they find their final resting place. It is an undying testament to the ESPIRIT DE CORPS and to the unbreakable bonds that unite all those who served on the Arizona or were in Pearl Harbor on that tragic day.
The dreadful events of that long ago December morning united this Nation in a common goal....In one stroke....the attack silenced the debate between isolation and engagement and launched us wholeheartedly into the war with the Axis and Imperial Japan....but such was the confidence and the strength of purpose of this American generation that victory was a foregone conclusion.
And so it is....that in some form or fashion we have gathered at these hallowed sites, for each of the last 69 years to reflect on the events of that one day's tragedy that would spark the conflict that would shape a generation. Young Americans, from all walks of life, born in the small towns and rural farms of our Nation or raised in communities like ours, were thrust together in the flashpoint....that was Pearl Harbor.
On the waters of the Pacific....in the air....under the sea....on untold islands and eventually across the whole globe, that generation, signed up and moved out....they surrendered their lives and committed their futures to a cause greater than any one individual.
As my mother still tells me, you saw it everywhere - in fact you hardly ever saw a man on the street between the ages of 18 and 40 that wasn't in a uniform or a woman that wasn't contributing in the war effort in some way or another.
The result was astounding. For almost 65 years, America has been strong, peaceful and prosperous because of the sacrifices of a generation of men and women who were willing to step-up and fight for their country.
Today, there is a new generation of Americans who live up to the legacy of courage and conviction that this great generation has left them. In New York City, tragedy gave way to conviction once again. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were more than attacks on American Citizens and American property....They were attacks on Freedom....on Liberty....and on Democracy....all that our forefathers and the generations before us have fought to protect.
And while we could debate forever the similarities and differences between December 7th and September 11th, it is clear to me, that this new generation has the strength of will and fortitude to persevere....whether it is the firefighters, police officers and rescue workers who plunged into the burning World Trade Center to rescue others....or the airline passengers who wrestled United Airlines Flight 93 from the hands of terrorists over the Pennsylvania countryside, or the Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers who are bringing this fight to our Taliban and Al Qaeda enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq at this very moment, Americans today - everyday citizens - are born of this same sense of sacrifice and spirit.
President Ronald Reagan like to call this...."THE FORMIDABLE WILL AND MORAL COURAGE OF FREE MEN". It has only been this country's most precious asset....at Pearl Harbor or at Ground Zero....and it will always be...it is this legacy, our Pearl Harbor and World War II generation that has left us, and it is this legacy that inspires the men and women who serve in our armed forces today, in this War on Terrorism.
The Sailors and Marines that make-up our Navy today have much in common with those that preceded them. They are unafraid of hard work, unmistakably intelligent and always engaging. The quality of this generations shows forth each day and they are part of the greatest Navy I have ever seen in my career. Most importantly, they are a cross section of America....a generation of young men and women who are tested each day in a profession that remains inherently dangerous.
MAKE NO MISTAKE!
This generation is equal to the task before them. You have only to walk upon the flight deck of an aircraft carrier that is launching and recovering aircraft ever 40 seconds....or stand on the pitching foc'sle of a guided missile cruiser preparing to launch Tomahawk cruise missles....or sense the energy within an amphibious ship putting Marines ashore or step into the darkened control room of a submarine as it prepares to submerge....or cross the Iraqi or Afghanistan deserts in the searing heat on a convoy with Marines and Seabees....To see them in action is to appreciate their talent and motivation.
This generation gives me great confidence for our future. Because of them, their courage, commitment and conviction, it is clear to me that we are going to continue to win this fight. And when I say this fight, I am not talking about just the battles in Afghanistan or Iraq, but the larger picture, the larger campaign against terrorism.
These men and women of today, continue to follow the example and leadership of those heroes who have gone before them. These heroes (the Pearl Harbor Survivors and WWII Veterans) were the young men and women who faced the issues of war and possible death and....then weighed those concerns against their own obligations to their country. They interrupted their lives at their most formative years....they served and sacrificed...."Not for fame and reward....not for place or rank....but in simple obedience to duty, God and country, as they understood it".
To those Pearl Harbor and World War II Veterans here this afternoon, we salute you for your service, your sacrifice and your spirit.
I'd like you to know that in Pearl Harbor today, the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri rest at their mooring, to form a monument to the beginning and end of the War in the Pacific.
These two great warships symbolize more than historical bookends of the war however - more than just tragedy and triumph. They are the symbol of the "American fighting spirit, the "Formidable will and moral courage" I spoke about earlier. And to those Pearl Harbor Veterans in the audience, again Thank You for this "Legacy". You have given this nation a gift not one of us can truly repay.
It is clear to me that Pearl Harbor will forever have a lasting impact on our lives. The events that followed December 7th, have long inspired us and they will continue to be a shining example for this nation for years to come.
For we gather here today....and will continue to gather, in memory and respect for these brave men and women who were lost in little more than an instant to honor the legacy of courage you've left us. It is in paying our respects, that we find hope for our future and a renewed sense of purpose.
Lest we should ever forget!
In the words of Joseph Drake (to the Defenders of New Orleans, 1814) "And they who for their country die, shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldiers tomb. and beauty weeps the brave".
May God Bless each of you and our United States of America.