This year I was fortunate to make the Mississippi All-State Lions Band, a band comprised of members all over the state to practice for a week and then travel and perform. This year the destination was Honolulu, Hawaii. I jumped for joy pondering the moments I knew I would enjoy, such as tanning on the beach and shopping in unique shops around the city, but what will forever stay with me was when the entire band had the privilege of playing at Pearl Harbor on the Fourth of July.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The band visited the USS Arizona Memorial first before making our way to the USS Missouri to play our concert. On the boat ride there, everyone was very excited about seeing the memorial, as was I. As I stepped off the ferry and onto the actual memorial, the first thing that I noticed was the names of the men and women that had perished during the attacks on December 7, 1941 engraved in marble taking up an entire wall. Everything became extremely surreal as I stood over hundreds of men who were entombed in the ruins below me. Everything was so somber as I walked around the memorial. I became overcome with gratitude, realizing of the petty moments I was worried about while men and women are dying every day for me and for many others so I can live in a country that has as many freedoms as it does. I looked over the railings at the rusted metal below me sitting in the calm water. I witnessed the oil still leaking even after 67 years and later learned that they will not remove the oil until the last survivor of Pearl Harbor has passed away, a heart wrenching reminder of the lives lost and the lives sparred on that morning.
After visiting the USS Arizona Memorial I made my way to the USS Missouri where the band would perform later that day. On the way there, I saw a man sitting at a table signing autographs and soon realized it was a survivor of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. I quickly got in line with some other band members so we could thank one of the men that put his life on the line to protect our country. I came face to face with Sterling R. Cale. The first thing I did was thank him. I was just so gracious for all the turmoil he had gone through to protect the country he loved so much. He was one of the nicest men I had ever met. He greeted you with a smile and made you feel as though you were immediately important to him. We talked for a little then I had to make my way to the shuttle and he had more people to greet. I was lucky enough to have my picture made with him and I gave him the proper Hawaiian farewell by telling him "mahalo." That day still gives me chills when I think about how real it was in those moments. How fortunate I am to live in a country full of as many freedoms and how important it remains to respect the men and women who graciously give their lives to protect every single person in America.
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