Hawaii is known as the land of relaxation, leisure and a place to ‘just hang loose’. When my grumpy-grey haired band director stepped onto the podium one eighth grade day, announcing the next band trip to march in the sixty-fifth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, excitement was a small word to the emotion felt by all 175 students filtered into the band room. Two and a half years later, 3 hundred band members, staff and spectators from the community boarded six different flights via Honolulu, Hawaii.Through out the week the band toured Polynesian culture, climbed the famous Diamond Head, tested their luck at surfing, and experienced what seemed like a million hours of waiting.
Waiting was the first thing experienced waking up before the stars escaped from the sky early Wednesday morning. A plump Hawaiian native, apparently joyful about driving a bus full of high school students to the sight marking the beginning of American involvement into WWII, so our band could play at the base of Battleship Missouri. The entire band was allowed to tour the Missouri before performing the concert.
My friends and I rushed through bunks, stairs and random chambers important to the ship but unimportant to an average teenage girl. Trying to find a way out, we stumbled upon a group of thirty listening intently to a man, tears weaving in and out of his wrinkled leather skin.The ten minutes spent listening to the man proved more worth while than all eleven years of schooling teaching about Pearl Harbor in pages of text. Men caught up in spell of paradise suddenly on Sunday morning woke up to torpedos damaging powerful ships.
None of the men who died, or witnessed the event deserved the cruel punishment received from Japanese planes. The man also trying to inspire us to play our best reminded us we weren’t sent to Hawaii to be a mid-western hick town band playing to place themselves on the map; we were there to perform, not for the living people on the boat, but for the millions of men and women who have died not only on that December day, but all throughout the history of America.Right before we set out to play, a beautiful mist glittered down giving a small relief to the hot air. The sun’s rays filtering through this mist forced a full rainbow stretching end to end over the harbor lasting the entire performance.
I was fortunate to be standing facing the heavenly Arizona with the rainbow floating above. The notes from my flute mixed with others around me, drifting into the beauty in the air. I finally realized, with out this horrible event, America wouldn’t be where it is today.
The area was scarred with an immense beauty almost impossibly formed from such evil. In the horizon velvet palm trees swayed to the beat of our music. Small shacks incrusted up the valley stood boldly overlooking the harbor.
The water, still coated with a small amount of oil from the Arizona, lapped up and down the side of the ship. And finally our band stood, wearing our red white and blue uniforms matching the American flag boldly flying above the Arizona.The beauty, leisure, and relaxed atmosphere would not be possible with out the blood shed from the millions of previous men and women who died for our country. They, through this trip, have taught me the true meaning of freedom, and the expenses Americans must take to ensure this freedom.
Months after our band landed on the cold Chicago airport, the image of the wrinkled man still is engraved into my mind. In a time where wars of terrorism, poverty and racism are broadcasted on daily events, Americans must bond together and rely on their fellow Americans. Freedom is also the duty of everyone to return the favor and sacrifice for the benefit of other Americans.
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