Forgiveness at Pearl Harbor

by Lou Solomon, dated Monday, May 30, 2011

My friend Eddie Link is a storyteller and a passionate historian.   He told me this story about a 74-year-old veteran, a 7-year-old little girl and forgiveness at Pearl Harbor.

In 1994 Link decided to take his entire family—his wife and three sons—to Hawaii.  When he began the initial planning he decided to invite his father-in-law, Everett.

Everett is a WWII Vet.  He was stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1941, and survived the attack.  He had not been back since his discharge from the Navy.  Link, being an avid reader of WWII history, was hoping that Everett would open up and share what happened from a personal perspective.  But Everett refused to even talk about taking the trip.

Three weeks before the trip Link received a call from his minister, Reverend Thompson, a U.S. Navy Reserve Chaplain.  He said, “Your father-in-law has suffered for too long.  I believe he needs to see the Memorial.  I will convince him to take the trip.”

The first day in Hawaii they decided to do the climb up to Diamond Head, which is the volcano that overlooks Waikiki

Bay.  Climbing up, they were joined by a Japanese family on the trail—and an energetic little girl named Norie.

When they got to the top of Diamond Head, they found gun boxes from the War that still overlook the Bay.  Norie wanted to get up on top of one of the boxes.  In an inexplicable moment, Everett walked over and lifted her up on the gun box.  They started talking, this 7-year-old child and 74-year-old man.  On the way back down, Everett watched the family quietly.  Norie looked back and smiled. Later he would comment to Link that the family seemed kind.

The next day Link took his family, including Everett, to Pearl Harbor.  The only part of the Memorial run by the U.S. Navy is the launch that takes visitors from the museum to the resting place of the USS Arizona.

The launch is commanded by a full Captain, which is no small thing.  Captains command ships, not launches. On the ride over the Captain got on the intercom and asked if there were any WWII Vets on board, and if so, would they please stand.  Four or five gentlemen—all 70 to 80 years old—stood including Everett.

When the Captain asked if any of them had survived Pearl Harbor, Everett was the only one left standing.  The Navy captain walked out to Everett and saluted saying, “Thank you for serving your country.” Everett began to cry, and everyone on board cried with him.  As the minutes passed, the passengers held that silence until there were no more tears.

Everett was able to let go of a burden that day at the Memorial.  But Link believes the miracle took place the day before, in the chance meeting between a 74-year-old veteran and a 7-year-old girl named Norie.

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Lou Solomon

Lou Solomon is the founder of Interact. She is a TEDx speaker and a member of the adjunct faculty at the McColl School of Business at Queens University of Charlotte. Her articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur.com, CEO.com, and Fast Company.