December 7th
A Day to Remember

Laughlin, NV

December 7th, 2000

Laughlin is located at the very southern tip of Nevada where Arizona and California meet in a triangle. Although the countryside is pretty barren we still found many things to do. We had heard about a gathering of Veterans on this date at a local museum commemorating the attack on Pearl Harbor. The second floor of the Ramada Express, in Laughlin, has been converted into a Veterans museum. The hotel hosted a Veterans recognition and appreciation gathering to which Pearl Harbor survivors were invited. As we rolled down the main drag of this gambling town we couldn't help think that the advertisements about the museum were going to turn out to be just some kind of hype to get people in to that particular casino. After parking the car, we walked to the front of the Ramada and took a look at their old time steam train. Huffing and puffing, it sat at their period-designed station with manikins in old west period costume in attendance. We hopped aboard for free and rode around the building taking in the sights. The panorama is nothing less then spectacular. It was the time of day when the sun was reflecting off the mountains in the distance and creating an amber spectacle of the landscape before us. After this we popped into the elevator and came out on the second floor. For all intents and purposes, commercialism stopped here. The second floor is dedicated to, and completely restricted to, information about Veterans. And what a job they did! The room is big, probably taking up the same floor space as the casino below. The center of the room is open, as in an auditorium with the walls reserved for displays about WW II. There is a concentrated effort to bring out the December 7th raid on Pearl Harbor, and it is that event that had brought us here on this date. The date of December 7th has for the last couple of decades been an important date to me as my oldest daughter was born on that occasion. Besides that, there was the infamous bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, that rammed the United States into WW II. Today, the room was reserved for the Veterans of that bombing and we were there to witness the occasion. I was quite surprised to find that a dozen or so showed up. Most of them were over 80 years old. The presentation started off with a multimedia show honoring all veterans. Four projectors ran a series of slides while people sang and colors flashed. It was quite moving. I watched as the WW II seaman next to me, quietly cried while he watched. The master of ceremonies, Andy Weniger opened with a commentary on his reflection as he stood on Hickam Field watching the planes he was to fly bombed into balls of fire and twisted metal. A thirty year veteran, he survived and went on to bomb the shores of Normandy on D Day, June 6, yet another day that lives in infamy. On December 7th, 2403 people officially died in the bombing. There were many heroes that day, in addition to the servicemen, there were women who were serving as nurses. One of these nurses was 87 year old LaVern Benike who was on duty at the Queens Hospital that morning and talked about going outside to see the commotion and reflecting on the slow realization that they were witnessing the beginning of war as they watched the ships in Pearl Harbor receiving the devastating punishment delivered by the Japanese attack bombers. Many of the survivors had brought their personal photo albums and scrap books with them which were filled with brown tinted and badly faded snapshots of Hawaii, Honolulu and Pearl Harbor. There were even a few shots taken after the attack although most admitted that there really wasn't much time for pictures at that point in time. The stories told through shaking voices were moving. At the end, all the December 7th veterans gathered for a picture and promised to be there again next year to do it again. It was quite moving. The museum and multi-media show are permanent and free to all who would stop by. The displays cover a variety of thoughts from the history of the famous Spam can to what it was like to wear the 40 lb. field pack issued to everyone going overseas. There were posters and placards about women in the war effort and some dioramas depicting what a common household might look like during the early '40s. It was a nice afternoon for an old war buff or a veteran looking for a piece of his past.

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