Today, Dec. 7, the United States commemorates the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on our forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Imperial Japanese Navy. That attack killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178 others—and was the direct cause of our nation entering into World War II. It was, according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “a date which will live in infamy.”
This past June, I presided over the Southern Baptist Convention as president. In this setting in St. Louis, I wanted to highlight the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor reminds us of the priority our own nation’s security.
In this moment of deep reflection about Pearl Harbor, I was humbled to be able to introduce and bring honor to Mr. Bill McAnany, a native of Wood River, Ill. He is one of an estimated 2,000 remaining Pearl Harbor veterans who witnessed firsthand the attacks on Dec. 7, 1941.
Bill joined the Navy in 1938 and, after basic training, received advanced training as a hospital corpsman. He was assigned aboard the USS Solace, a 400-bed hospital ship that arrived at Pearl Harbor on Oct. 27, 1941, where it would remain until the fateful events that unfolded on Dec. 7.
On that historic morning in Pearl Harbor 75 years ago, Bill and some of his friends were enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning. Then, the first wave of attacks upon Pearl Harbor began. They quickly worked their way to Ford Island, which was hit in the attacks, and turned the camp dispensary into a hospital. For the next two days, they provided emergency medical care to the injured and dying until they were finally relieved of their duties and able to return to their ship.
The attack on Pearl Harbor changed Bill’s view on life forever. After seeing countless critically wounded troops fighting for their breath just to stay alive, he learned the value of a human life. To quote Bill from an interview, “You quickly realize that life is a gift not meant to be wasted.” On this Dec. 7, Bill and his wife, Nancy, will be in Pearl Harbor together to remember that day of infamy, but also to celebrate Bill’s 95th birthday and their 45th anniversary together.
Pearl Harbor is a constant reminder that our freedom, purchased by the blood of American patriots, should never be taken for granted. May we forever be grateful to God for our citizenship in a land where the sunlight of liberty shines from shore to shore. May we forever give thanks to those who laid down their lives for freedom’s cause. And, may we always remember and honor those who fought, died and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. We owe a priceless debt to the men and women who gave their full measure of devotion to duty on Dec. 7, 1941, as well as throughout all wars. May the passing of time never dim the glory of their deeds and the legacy they left behind.
We must never forget the tragedy that occurred in our nation 75 years ago. Since that moment, America has never been the same. It still serves as a reminder of the priority of America’s national security. But even more importantly, as we reflect upon and remember this tragedy, we also need to look to the future with great hope, knowing that the sacrifices at Pearl Harbor are largely responsible for keeping America the greatest country in the world.
For all the families who have lost their loved ones in the line of great duty to defend our nation, we pray for God’s peace to be upon you in your deep loss. For all of those who have served our nation, thank you. For anyone serving our nation today in our own land or across the world, our hearts are overwhelmed and blessed with gratefulness for your sacrifice for the protection of our nation.
I love America.
Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention and founder of the Cross Church School of Ministry. This column first appeared on his blog at ronniefloyd.com.