It's been 71 years since the Japanese surprised America — and the world — by attacking Pearl Harbor.
That's a long time ago.
Even for young soldiers who entered the service before age 18, they are now somewhere well north of 80 years old.
Estimates put the number of Pearl Harbor survivors at around 8,000. They are quickly leaving this earth.
That in itself is sad, but it is also part of life.
Another factor in the big picture is Sept. 11, 2001. That was another day which changed history. Like Pearl Harbor, those attacks shocked America and the world.
And that day is much fresher in the minds of Americans.
But that doesn't mean we should somehow lessen the magnitude of the Pearl Harbor attack.
In fact, that attack had such an influence on the world the impacts are still felt to this very day.
At that time, America was almost complacent about entering World War II. We had been aiding in the European Theatre, however, there was a lot of reluctance to plunge into another worldwide war.
That all changed on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. The sleeping giant was awakened and history changed forever.
The attack plunged this nation head-first into World War II. It ignited the passion of all Americans.
Factories began producing war materials, women worked in places never allowed before and everyone was on board with rationing everything from gasoline to sugar.
The United States entered the war with both barrels blazing, literally.
The war changed quickly when America's firepower became involved.
First, it was the European Theatre which fell and Hitler killed himself, defeated in mediocrity.
Then, the Pacific Theatre — where the Pearl Harbor attack happened — began to turn around, as well.
It eventually led to dropping the atomic bombs on Japanese soil.
The war was over.
History was changed.
And it all started at Pearl Harbor.
What must not be lost in all of this is just how many people paid the ultimate price in service to their country.
The first casualties came at Pearl Harbor and it would be four more years of bloodshed and death before the outcome became clear.
We must never forget those brave souls who manned their guns that day at Pearl Harbor, knowing their chances of survival were not good. They had no idea it was coming yet they jumped into action, probably before even realizing the full scale attack which was taking place.
Pearl Harbor will always be a sacred American site. A place where bloodshed and death eventually led to changing the world — for the better.
It's always interesting when pondering historic event like Pearl Harbor. So many times, the face of evil and death have actually turned out to be good for the whole in the long run.
But getting there has always been the problem and it's paid for by human lives. It's also paid for in emotional costs only those who have been there can know.
On this Pearl Harbor Day, we salute those who so bravely gave their lives so this country could live free.