Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)
This year, like every year, Americans and people around the world that owe their freedom to an American soldier, will recognize their service at patriotic ceremonies, church services and community events on Veteranís Day. My father was one of those people and I often recognize his contribution as a founding member of the Greatest Generation, but he was just one of many. This year, I want to honor the memory of another hero from that generation, my friend Luke Trahin.
"December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy,'' were words spoken by President Franklin D. Roosevelt that became forever embedded in the minds of patriots across our land, igniting and launching a nation into the fiery trenches of battle. Those of the greatest generation proved that when the peace of this nation is threatened, our people will stand up and fight, bringing the thunder of God upon our enemies. Defending freedom and liberty was the battle cry of the sailors and soldiers that died at Pearl Harbor
Around breakfast time on a stunning Sunday sunrise, Luke, a 22-year-old sailor from Southeast Texas, noticed large formations of aircraft darkening the glistening sky. He kept watching it until suddenly bombs from the Japanese invaders started dropping on Pearl Harbor Naval Base.
After the smoke cleared on that morning of madness, 188 planes were destroyed. Lukeís unit, Patrol Wing One, lost all but three of its 36 aircraft. 2,471 Americans, servicemen and civilians were killed by this unwarranted terror from the skies.
West Virginia, California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Maryland, Nevada, Arizona. These were fierce U.S. naval battleships whose silent guns and hulls became sacred graves in the peaceful Pacific for 2,403 Americans. The sailors on board these battle wagons fought with the courage and heroism of entire legions of warriors when attacked by a fanatical and tyrannical enemy.
Luke and his buddies in Patrol Wing One quickly got organized rebuilding the unit to combat capability. For his dedication and leadership, he was promoted to Petty Officer Second Class. For two days, they waited for the Japanese landing, but it did not occur. Japanese naval commanders were concerned because they said, ``What Japan has done was awake a sleeping giant,î the United States.
In June 1942, his unit played a pivotal part in the Battle of Midway. Luke remained in the Navy until World War II was won by his greatest generation. He left active duty as Chief Petty Officer and continued his service in the Reserve. He always wore his Navy blues and medals on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and, of course, the 4th of July.
Lukeís military service was marked by a slew of honors. He was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Navy Reserve Medal and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal.
I am always intrigued by the stories of these war heroes and the folks of their generation. There isnít one of them that cannot recall the exact moment and place they were when they heard the news. That was a time in our country when everyone came together, unified in defending our country and dedicated in preserving peace in our homeland. Until September 11th, this was the deadliest attack on US soil.
My friend, Luke Trahin, passed away last year on December 5th at the age of 89. I cannot say enough about this great man, this American hero. Thank you, Luke. Your patriotic spirit and generous heart will be missed, but never forgotten.
I sincerely thank each and every one of you that has served our country yesterday, today and tomorrow. Without your service we would not be the greatest country the world has ever known.
And thatís just the way it is.