2020 has been hard on you, right? Now imagine being 98-year old Jack Holder. Here’s to him visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Phoenix, Arizona for the 79th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attacks being his last sad event of the year. He’s earned it.
This is a sacred occasion for Jack Holder. He’s been a part of the organized December 7th event at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in downtown Phoenix in the past. But Covid-19 claiming yet another casualty forced the 2020 gathering to be cancelled. reasons. So, we safely held our own small private ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in the plaza.
Joining Jack Holder Pearl Harbor Survivor were his close friends Dennis Gardner, and Retired U.S. Navy, Darlene Tryon, Retired U.S. Air Force. We were also able to enlist Retired U.S. Army Major Vic Smith.
Vic played the bugle and flugelhorn for the event. Meanwhile, I was serving as an outgunned, one-man video production team.
Jack Holder is a card carrying member of “The Greatest Generation.” He faces challenges head on, overcomes them, and keeps on going.
He did it working hard on his family’s Texas farm until he joined the United States Navy at 18 years old. He persevered having his appendix removed with just a local anesthetic as he reported to boot camp in San Diego. Later, Jack bravely flew 315 U.S. Navy missions before and during World War II. Next, in his post-military career as a corporate pilot, he narrowly survived a plane crash caused by mechanical failure.
Two important points stand out from all this. 1. They don’t make ’em like that any more. 2. They don’t call ’em “The Greatest Generation“ for nothing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has kept Jack Holder Pearl Harbor Survivor beached like the PBY aircraft he flew in the Pacific Theater. He’s been home for much of 2020.
Granted, he has real concerns about staying safe. But in the end it didn’t matter much. Just about all of his scheduled appearances have been postponed or cancelled outright. The worst being the last minute cancellation of our trip to Pearl Harbor for the 75th Commemoration of the end of World War II in September. That was a gut shot if there ever was one. And there was no sufficient anesthesia.
Days after we enjoyed a quiet Thanksgiving dinner together, Jack kicked off December by being admitted to hospital for a few days. But as I was taking him home after being discharged, I asked what he wanted to do about our planned December 7th tribute. Without hesitation he said, “I’m doing it.”
With a few days of antibiotics and time to recover, Jack Holder Pearl Harbor Survivor dodged another bullet. He wasn’t even thinking of not visiting the USS Arizona Memorial to recognize the 79th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attacks. It’s not just a “Date which will live in infamy.” It’s a day Jack will never forget even if God gives him another 79 years.