I’m happy to say the SDPHS 2014 national convention was a great success. Look for all the details in the next Offspring newsletter. As with any event of this size, there were a few challenges for the organizing team. However, they did an outstanding job. In addition to the convention, we held our chapter and sixth district business meetings.
As you know, the SDPHS organization was invited to take part in the Pearl Harbor Day ceremonies onboard the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown. We were fortunate to have several Pearl Harbor Survivors in attendance. Each branch of our nation’s military was well represented. It was also interesting to see the large turnout of elected officials. My guess is there was somewhere between 450-600 people. There was standing room only on the hanger deck. There were several good speakers. However, SDPHS National President Lou Large delivered a speech that shook that ship from one end to the other. I’ve condensed much of her speech here for you. Please be sure to read it.
Lou started her speech with the normal details we’ve all come to expect whenever anyone talks about the attack on December 7, 1941. She also made a point to remind everyone of the some of the horrific results of that day. She wanted to make sure everyone clearly understand how bravely our men and women fought to protect each other and our great nation. Then Lou stopped, looked out at the crowd and; pointing at the American flag, made a comment I will never forget. “We need to come together as a nation again. The only colors we should be concerned about are red, white, and blue.” As you might expect, the place erupted with a standing ovation. However, Lou was not after applause.
She looked out at the crowd again and asked, “Did you know there is a scandal going on in Hawaii regarding the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the USS Arizona?” Unfortunately, it’s true. One of the last things the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association did before formally disbanding was to donate all their funds to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. Let’s just say it was LOT of money. Their goal was to ensure the memorial would be well maintained so generations could visit and learn about what happened to our nation on December 7, 1941.
Lou reported that the memorial has been allowed to deteriorate to the point where it will take a considerable amount of time, effort, and money just to restore it to the condition it was when the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association made their donation. Hold on folks, we’re just getting started. Lou then went on to say there is another scandal we need to know about.
For many years, the National Park Service has overseen access to the USS Arizona Memorial where so many of our brave service members now rest. Access to the memorial is free. However, Lou stated that National Park Service personnel have been observed selling Arizona Memorial tickets to tour groups who then sold the tickets at a profit. Now remember, these tickets are supposed to be free to the general public. Whatever happened to integrity and honesty?
For those who don’t know, only a certain number of people are allowed to visit the Arizona memorial each year. By selling the tickets, these tour groups basically control the number of visitors and make money they are not entitled to. How would you like to bring a Pearl Harbor Survivor to the memorial only to be turned away due to there not being any tickets available? It gets worse; in addition to selling tickets to their customers, the National Park Service has actually observed these tour groups selling the free tickets to regular visitors. Makes me wonder how long this has been happening.
So, what can we do? Well, we could do nothing. Of course that would mean we don’t really care about preserving the memories of the Pearl Harbor Survivors. Not an option I’m willing to take and I’m sure you feel the same. Second, we could write or call our elected officials. Oh but wait. Do we call them as individuals or as active members of the Sons and Daughters of the Pearl Harbor Survivors, Inc.? What does it matter? Remember what Lou said about us coming together.
There’s a big difference in how politicians perceive and respond to situations. While an individual has a voice, an organization has a level of influence no individual could ever hope for. Lou didn’t get invited to speak onboard the USS Yorktown just because her dad was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 during the attack. She was invited to speak as the National President of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, Inc. The same holds true for us.
As active members, we have an official platform where we can join together to tell others about the attack on December 7, 1941 and the scandal that’s happening right now. According to our bylaws, anyone who has joined the SDPHS is a member for life. So, what do I mean by “active” member? I’m glad you asked. The answer is very simple. If you’ve paid your 2014-2015 national dues, then you’re an active member.
Can you spread the word about all these issues without being an active member? Of course you can. That’s not the point. It’s all about how effective we can be toward getting the national park service to do what is only right. We need them to make the badly needed repairs and stop letting groups sell free tickets. The reality of the situation is pretty simple. The level of influence an individual can bring to such a cause is much less effective than a nationally recognized association named after the survivors of such a horrific event. United we stand. Divided we will surely fail.
So, why did I tell you all of this? Well, would you believe that of the 4,000 or so SDPHS members on the books, only a little over 500 are active. That’s only 12.5% of our membership. Unfortunately, the old saying about perception being reality even holds true for us. If you haven’t paid your national dues, please do so now. We need your help more now than ever before. Lest America forgets.
Georgia State Chair & Chapter President
Harry Robert Kerr Chapter
GA Chapter #1