The gift of a story: honoring our veterans

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Remembering where she placed her glasses can be difficult at times, but there is a memory that remains engraved in her mind. The year was 1941; she was just a child, however, the retelling of events that took place on December 7th of the same year silences the people in the room as they sit listening.

She recounts the loud alarms, loading the bus to safety and seeing the devastation at the harbor.

The child, Judy Weiher, a daughter of a service member stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, during the attack on the base, speaks at a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony held at the National Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum on December 4.

In attendance were World War II veterans, active duty military members, families and the guest of honor was retired Chief Petty Officer Glover Manning, who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"If you have stories pass it to your loved ones," said Capt. Paul Young, Commodore of Littoral Combat Ship Squadron Two, Mayport, Florida. "We all know the history, what we don't often know is the individual stories of the men and women who lived seeing that history."

His grandfather, Howard Hastings, a rifleman in France during World War II, served as inspiration for speaking at the ceremony, said Young.

"He shared things he had carried for years, which no one knew," he added.

After a battle in a small village in the south of France, Hastings took his team to clear and stand up a safe house, Young explained. Once the house was deemed safe, the team searched for beds and called it a night. Young's grandfather used a picnic-style table as his bed for the night. Upon daybreak, he woke up and noticed a German Army knife on the table near where his head had lain. No one on his team admitted to who had set the knife near his head.

Years after his grandfather had returned from the war, puzzle pieces from that particular day started to come together, Young said. He speculated that a young German Soldier had hid in the house even after it was cleared then slipped out as everyone was asleep, leaving behind his knife as a message.

"Howard Hastings forever treated that message as a gift," added Young. "It inspired him to enjoy every moment in life, every relationship and to love his family. Certainly he passed that gift on to my family. If it were not for the sake of an enemy Soldier in the middle of the night, I may never have known or learned the values of the greatest generation."

Sharing individual stories act to thread together the fabric that makes this nation as well as our people special and individuals lucky to receive those stories should cherish them as the gifts they are, he said.

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