Remember and Be Grateful

By Howard Coop

Wednesday, July 14, 1976 was a solemnly impressive day that will forever be remembered. 
With the Koolau Mountains behind us and rows of monkey pod trees around us, we stood in Punch Bowl crater, known to the Hawaiian people as Puowaina, a name that means “the Hill of Sacrifice.” 
A massive series of stairways with eight marble walls called the “Court of the Missing” that contains the names of 18,093 American service men and women who are missing in action carved upon them was beside us. With what appeared to be a sea of white crosses in front of us, we looked across Punch Bowl Cemetery. Known as the Arlington of the Pacific, “about 53,000 World War I, World War II, and Vietnam War veterans and their descendants,” including 22 recipients of the Medal of Honor, have been buried there.
After a few well-chosen words, spoken in hushed tones by our guide, there was total silence…and a few tears. Then, after a moment, the guide led us to the edge of that sea of crosses and pointed out two of them, the first serviceman killed on December 7, 1942 during the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, and Ernie Pyle, the famed Pulitzer Prize-winning news correspondent of World War II, who was killed by enemy fire on April 18, 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa. 
From the standpoint of weather, it was a beautiful day in Hawaii, but for a group of American tourists, it was a sad and gloomy day.
Where will you be, and what will you be doing on Veteran’s Day? It may be a day of leisure for you, so you probably won’t be in Arlington Cemetery, Punch Bowl Crater, or any cemetery anywhere, but you will be somewhere. And wherever you are, you can stop for a moment and remember…
Remember the freedom you enjoy. It is precious, but it is not free. It cost dearly. Many servicemen and women made it possible. Some of them walk by our side every day. But in countless cemeteries around the world, others, many others, have white crosses marking their graves. Remember and be grateful.