Hawaii… Pearl Harbor… Three Generations
Posted by Ann Kinner
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: Hawaii, USA
When you come from a landlocked city and state, the thought of a trip to Hawaii is ocean, white sand beaches, ocean, pink sand beaches, more ocean, tropical breezes, and did I mention the ocean… Throughout the years, my family thought of Hawaii as the ultimate destination for the ultimate dream trip to experience a magical tropical ocean setting that just doesn’t exist at home. What was surprising, however, was the answer that three generations of my family gave to the question “what was the moment you’ll most remember from your Hawaii trip.” Everybody had a two-part answer – and everybody named the same place as one of their “moments.” And all for different – but connected – reasons. The answer? Pearl Harbor.
My parents celebrated a milestone wedding anniversary with their trip-of-a-lifetime to the Hawaiian Islands. They came back with hours of stories, including the night that they celebrated their actual anniversary at a luau. But what I wasn’t expecting was the impact that their visit to Pearl Harbor made on them. My dad is a World War II Navy pilot who, like so many others, enlisted after December 7, 1941. He had completed two years of college, and after flight training was retained as a flight instructor in Florida. My dad never talked much about these years, just a few stories… until he returned from his very moving experience at Pearl Harbor and the visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. He really opened up emotionally about his Naval career, wanting to share so much about what he felt – amazing stories of his time spent with two of his most famous students, baseball players Ted Williams and Bob Kennedy (including a funny story about playing ball with Bob Kennedy, who was as intent on learning how to throw and bat left handed, in the event his right hand was injured, as he was on learning to fly), the disappearance of his closest friend over the Bermuda Triangle, and the honor of taking part in planned Pacific operations at the end of the war.
It was a much younger “trip-of-a-lifetime” when I took my nieces, ages 9 and 13, to Hawaii. While I was not surprised that one of their favorite moments was learning to surf at Waikiki, I was truly amazed at the impact their Pearl Harbor visit made on them. They knew “what” Pearl Harbor was, but had no emotional connection – until they went to the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and watched the film prior to the USS Arizona Memorial tour. This visit unlocked something within them that instantly tied them to the “stories” from their grandfather. They brought leis with them to the USS Arizona Memorial and silently and somberly dropped them into the sea in remembrance – and came away understanding more about their country, more about an era long ago in time, and more about their own family than I ever could have imagined.
And me? Hawaii is one of my favorite places, and I’ve traveled to the islands several times. I would have thought that my most memorable moment involved an engagement ring and miles and miles of solitary beach… or the time I found an 8-week-old golden retriever puppy that had escaped for its big adventure on the sands of Kaanapali… or the night I swam with the manta rays. But it’s not. It is the moment that I experienced the word “poignant” as I watched the faces of my nieces as they solemnly paid tribute to those who gave their lives on December 7, 1941, and realized that three generations had shared a travel moment that would be long-remembered.
And I have to add that I am personally so excited about a new addition to our 2013 The Best of Hawaii trip – a private after-hours reception and dinner at the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. The museum houses an amazing collection of Pacific World War II aircraft – and other eras – with lots of stories that paint the picture of aviation history. It is an aviation history that so many of us are personally connected to, for so many reasons.