Today, December 7th, 2012 marks the one year anniversary since the members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association (PHSA) last officially participated in a "Pearl Harbor Day" of remembrance.
One year ago, the National Chapter of the PHSA voted to not renew their status as a Congressionally chartered organization... believing that 70 years of carrying out their solemn oath to "Remember Pearl Harbor and Keep America Alert" was long enough... noting their members' declining health, or lack of mobility and most of all, too much bureaucratic paperwork required to keep the organization legally operating.
And with those sad facts, nearly all of the remaining local PHSA Chapters across the nation dissolved their organizations... while a select few opted to continue their efforts in an unofficial capacity for as long as their members deemed it possible.
As for my part, I believe my body of work over the past 13 years in support of the PHSA as an Honorary Member speaks for itself… at least when asked if I upheld my duties to their cause…
… and since acting as a duty-bound Honorary Member, I've held my personal opinions and commentary to myself with regards to my experiences as a whole… as far as any Internet blogging is concerned.
But now, I believe it’s time to take this wonderful tool that the Pearls of Honor.com website is… in a different direction.
When I was first being sworn-in as an Honorary Member, part of my oath was to “Remember Pearl Harbor and Keep America Alert”… a saying I kept coming back to over and over… and asking myself…
“Keep America Alert”... “Alert to what?”
A rhetorical question you say?... not so fast.
Properly, a rhetorical question is one in which the person asking the question does not actually hope for an answer. (Source)
Late in the year 2000, as I was being sworn-in as a new Honorary Member of the San Diego PHSA Chapter, I was also acting as a contributing editor to the San Diego-based monthly newspaper The Veterans Journal… a local paper with quite a few devoted veteran readers.
The owner and Managing Editor, David Brown (may he Rest in Peace) gave me wide latitude in offering up whatever topics and information I thought our readers would be interested in.
Given this opportunity, and being pestered by this nagging question noted above, I initiated a series of monthly articles entited… “Remember Pearl Harbor and Keep America Alert… Alert to What?”
I was implicitly asking each and every veteran if they could name any of the myriad specific threats this nation faced.
Remember… this was early 2001.
The series was based upon my premise that many of the veterans I had met in the broader veteran community were very well-versed on all-things relating to the day to day issues with veterans affairs across the nation, but it seemed as though few if any were concerned with, or followed with any interest, the myriad national security issues I had been following ever since my service in the Navy in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Cyber warfare?... what’s that? Chinese Omni-directional Warfare?... what’s that? Transnational threats defined as radical Islamic terror groups colluding with international narco-traffickers?... never heard of such a thing.
Each month I provided top-notch, national security think-tank articles for our veteran readers… knowing two things at that time; most older veterans were either completely computer illiterate, or were just beginning their quests into cyberspace… and, that nowhere else would they find such things in print while at their favorite barber shop, or while waiting for the V.A. bureaucrats to call their number.
Just as we were getting ready to send our October edition to the printers, a relatively unknown group of people from the “religion of peace” slaughtered a few thousand Americans who were similarly unaware of such ‘transnational threats”.
“Keep America Alert to What?”… “I Rest My Case!”… was all I wrote…
...in large print… superimposed over a full-page photo of the 600 mph airliner mere feet from the second tower.
Soon thereafter, The Veterans Journal took a massive shift in direction.
“Operation Homefront” was launched… an idea I conceived of just days after hearing the news that President Bush was ordering military troops to Afghanistan.
Having served in combat during Operation Desert Storm, my first thoughts were… “Those troops need to focus solely on the mission at hand… and they can’t do so if they’re worried about their wife and family back home.”
Hammering out the idea with David Brown, I began pestering the producer of the Roger Hedgecock Radio Show in San Diego with multiple emails… finally getting a response a week or so later.
Coaxing David into explaining the idea live on the radio… we hoped to have local businesses provide discounts to the families of those deployed overseas… such as help with a broken-down auto transmission, or help with home computer issues or any other discounts available.
The phones in our office began ringing off the hook as soon as the idea hit the airwaves.
As with many great ideas, close associates often become traitors to the cause.
Within a few weeks, one such associate took the Operation Homefront concept and incorporated it as a non-profit organization behind our backs… effectively stealing the now-going concern.
Driven by incessant promotion from the radio host noted above, Operation Homefront flowered into a nationally franchised organization over the next couple of years, complete with politicians shuffling into photo-ops showing their support for the cause.
Just a couple of years later, I found out that the “associate” noted above was fired from the organization for embezzling funds, among other things, and learned that many of the organization’s staff were making 6-figure incomes… a complete affront to the founding principles of “supporting the troops.”
That fiasco, among others never interrupted my love and affection for the friendships and work I was so-honored to have with the Pearl Harbor Survivors.
Even after moving to Las Vegas, I soon found myself once again being sworn-in as an Honorary Member… going from the largest Chapter in the country that was San Diego… to one of the smallest, that Las Vegas was what with only 6 active members.
Just like the San Diego Chapter, I soon found myself becoming close friends with the Survivors… and providing as much help as I could with their various public appearances in parades and veteran events.
But all the while, I was hog-tied by the rules of the organization… just as so many of the Survivors themselves were.
As a non-profit organization, they were not allowed to take any political stances or make any kind of statements that might be construed as politically divisive while in their official capacities, and that made many Survivors mutter under their breath at meetings the things they so passionately believed but were not allowed to voice publicly.
Similarly, I too was not allowed to make any political or divisive statements while working with the Survivors… and could only sit back and think.
Doesn’t this seem all-so contradictory to the PHSA’s whole reason for being?
These true American treasures built a national organization devoted to the sole purpose of keeping America and its government free from having to endure another Pearl Harbor type event… only to be told by that same government that any pronouncements they made implying any failure of that government to focus on such possible threats would be considered political and/or divisive, ergo, off limits.
Regardless of the dissolution of the Survivors Association, I still feel beholden to my duty to carry out my oath to “Remember Pearl Harbor and Keep America Alert!”… just as I believe every former member of the US military is beholden to their oath to “Uphold and defend the Constitution.”
And with this belief, I hope to utilize this Pearls of Honor.com blog to provide readers with various articles and links to articles that I believe are important to know in order to stay informed of the myriad threats this nation faces.
But as for this posting… I will only say this…
As I have told many of the Survivors personally, I have been honored beyond my wildest imaginations with the gift of “Honorary Member” that was bestowed upon me for the past 13 years… and I will both cherish and long remember the wonderful friendships and memories I was so-blessed to experience over those years...
... Traveling to Hawaii multiple times with the Survivors, attending veterans parades and memorial services, and most of all… just sitting down and listening to their words of wisdom as they reminisced over the years, and seeing their eyes light up as a young admirer asked for an autograph.
I hope and pray each and every Pearl Harbor Survivor and family member will have both a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.
And even though I am now living in the heartland of America, I will continue to honor that oath to “Remember Pearl Harbor and Keep America Alert!”
With the greatest respect,
Dana F. Harbaugh