Hey there, mobile user!This is mildly optimized but unfortunately the embedded media doesn't scale. I'll get around to fixing it when I do a little work under the hood. Forgiveness, please.
Countless books and movies remind us about the incredible sacrifice of brave men and women at Pearl Harbor. A lesser known fact is that 38 sets of brothers served together on the USS Arizona. Two of those men were my Great Uncles, and the story of how one survived and the other died is almost unbelievable.
Stanley and Anthony Czarnecki were stationed aboard the USS Arizona in 1941. Both Michigan boys were enjoying the first warm winter of their lives. Hawaii’s weather was beautiful but Anthony missed his new bride Dorothy. Having never seen grass in the Winter, Dorothy flew to Hawaii to visit her husband, quite an expense in the 1940s.
Stanley had been assigned shore leave the night of December 8th, which happened to be Dorothy’s last night in Hawaii. Stanley traded his leave to Anthony so he could have one more night with his sweetheart. The next morning Imperial Japan dropped four 410-milimeter armor piercing bombs on USS Arizona. In all likelihood Stanley was killed instantly, though he should have been on land.
Anthony rushed to the harbor to lend a hand. Through a thick cloud of smoke he saw his ship burning. Survivors on shore tell gut wrenching stories about how they couldn’t help shipmates, their Navy brothers. For Anthony that feeling was all too real. He stood safely on shore, knowing he had traded his brother’s fate for one more night with his wife.
Anthony lived the rest of his life haunted by the deal he made with his brother. In 2004 he passed away and was cremated. He joined other surviving shipmates who had their ashes placed with the ship by a diver.
Every time our country turns a corner I wonder if Stanley would have given his life for what we’ve become. Would he support healthcare for everyone? What would he think about the Vietnam or Iraq wars, a black president, or letting gay people serve in the military? I don’t know. Given his patriotism I’m sure he would have enlisted just the same, but it always gives me pause.
I think it’s important to remember how many people died not for who we were at the time, but for the future of our country. I suppose I’m too selfish or cowardly to risk my life for my country and am honored to have had such strong, brave men in my family.
Last year I had emergency back surgery. A few days later, drugged and groggy, I fired off an e-mail to Steve. I’m terribly embarrassed to read it now, but I like to think Steve didn’t judge my poor grammar or flowery tone.
His two word reply meant the world to me.