On December 7, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. An attack that lasted just 110 minutes left 2,335 U.S. service members dead and another 1,143 wounded. The next day in an address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941: “A date which will live in infamy.” I believe those words still hold true today.
After that surprise attack, the United States entered the Second World War, sending 16.1 million Americans into harm’s way on two separate fronts. Oklahomans were called upon to serve in the military, as well as at home. Almost 5,500 Oklahomans died in combat during World War II. Nineteen of those Oklahomans received the highest military honor that the United States can give, the Medal of Honor. In the Second District, Oklahomans did their part for the war effort. They mined lead for bullets and produced gunpowder and ammunition.
The effects of that war can still be seen today in the faces of our WWII veterans. We are losing our greatest generation at an alarming rate. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, only 620,000 people who served during the war lived to 2016, and that number decreases every day. It is up to us to recognize their sacrifice during one of the most pivotal times in our history. If they had not stood up and answered their country’s call, we would not be the great nation we are today.
Our generation also suffered a devastating surprise attack on September 11, 2001. Since that day, we have had troops stationed around the world fighting the War on Terror. This Pearl Harbor Day, we are reminded why we must keep such a large and powerful military. They are what stand between us and those who would destroy our way of life. It is up to us to train our fighting men and women, and equip them with whatever they need to defeat our enemies. We must empower our intelligence community so that they can identify threats before they have the chance to carry out attacks. We must learn from the past so that it doesn’t repeat itself.
December 7, 1941 is a date that will forever be etched into the history of our nation, and we should never forget those we lost on that day, and in the bloody battles that followed.