Here’s what’s happened over the last few weeks:
First, we had a tour of Pearl Harbor from our friend Uncle Herb. He’s half Hawaiian, in his 90’s and a Pearl Harbor and Battle of the Bulge survivor. It was my first time to the memorial and Uncle Herb greeted us in his electric scooter at the main gate.
We had no idea our neighbor and friend was a celebrity. Tourists brought their children up to him to hear his story. Everyone wanted a photo with a real life hero. We took photos for tourists and waited until it was time to board the ship to the Arizona. Uncle Herb had procured tickets for us on the 9:00 tour.
The line for the 9:00 tour snaked around the building that housed the theater. As we followed Uncle Herb, he steered his scooter along the side of the line, telling us, “Stick to me like glue.” We did and Uncle led us to the front of the line, where the National Park rangers unhooked the rope and let us through.
We sat in the front row while waiting to watch a short video that helped explain the history of that infamous day. When finished, we opened the door and followed Uncle to the boarding area for the boat that would take us to the Arizona. The military members working the ship kept everyone standing in line behind the rope while Uncle Herb headed towards the ramp. We stopped when the men at the ramp flanked each side and saluted Uncle as he rode up the ramp to the ferry.
When he was on board, we followed him and waited for the line of people to embark. Once en route to the Arizona, one of the men who had saluted announced on the loudspeaker that there was a Pearl Harbor survivor onboard, that he would be let off ship first and that their tradition was to salute the living survivors.
Again we followed Uncle off the boat onto the Arizona. When the line of people standing to the left waiting to leave the Arizona saw Uncle in his Pearl Harbor hat come towards them, the entire line clapped as he rode by. We didn’t hear much of Uncle’s stories while on the memorial because everyone again wanted to meet him, shake his hand, tell him “thank you” and have a photo with him.
I leaned over to Uncle and whispered in his ear, “You’re a rock star here.”
He smiled and said, “And I don’t have to have a guitar or shake my hips.”
We then asked one of the tourists to take our photo with Uncle Herb.