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Editorial A day to rise, to salute, to reflect

December 7, 2018

As Bob Dole arose from his wheelchair to salute George H.W. Bush’s casket in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday, he reached past decades of their political rivalry to remind Americans they were World War II heroes first.

Dole raised his left arm to his forehead, a necessity because the German machine gun fire that caught him in the back and right arm has left his other hand useless since he led a charge on a hill near Florence, Italy, on April 14, 1945.

Both men were drawn into the war by events that occurred 77 years ago today, when our nation’s hand was forced by Japan’s surprise attack on a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,400 Americans.

Dole’s silent gesture is all the motivation any American should need to take pause on this day.

This is a day when we traditionally urge Americans to ensure Dec. 7, 1941 is never downgraded to a vexing trivia question. It is a day that demands reliable oral history as we lose our eyewitnesses.

Can you imagine a time when Sept. 11, 2001 is not recognized with dignity? Young generations already rely on personal narratives that mine emotion, but they can also be directed to video accounts that did not exist 77 years. Diminished recognition of 9/11 seems impossible, but it will happen.

These are two days when our states fused into taut unity.

Many communities felt it on a more immediate level as well in the hours after the Pearl Harbor attack, which claimed the lives of 15 Connecticut residents, including two from Stamford, two from Bridgeport and one each from Darien and New Haven.

Decades before the immediacy of social media, anxious families awaited grim news.

U.S. Army Air Corps aviation mechanic Vincent Horan of Stamford was reported in newspapers as the first known casualty. Before the Stamford Advocate hit the streets, an editor and the police chief knocked on his family’s door to deliver the news.

Dole, a longtime powerful U.S. senator, honored Bush as the last president to serve in World War II. They were members of a generation that continued to serve their nation after war’s end.

Three decades ago, half of the 535 members of Congress were military veterans. In 1971, the percentage was 73 percent. The 2017 class was less than 19 percent. The incoming group drops another seven to 95, dipping to 18 percent.

But there is a promising shift in the tide, bringing a new generation of veterans to Washington, D.C. The veterans in the next Congress includes a record six females.

They take office at a time when American heroes remain as vital as our need to respect our past. We cling to the events of Dec. 7, 1941 as an anchor to the reality that it could happen again.

From the slaughter of American lives came one response. The same one Dole exhibited 77 years later; the same one this day will always call for: Resolve.

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