Each shared testimony of what they remember that day nearly 70 years ago on December 7, 1941. Their memories were so vivid, I almost felt like I was there myself. I could hear what they heard, smell what they smelled, feel what they feared was happening... and what they saw. Each word was shared in such a gentle way, as though to protect my heart from the difficult stories they had lived out themselves for the sake of protecting and defending our country.
Yet despite their gentle nature, despite their soft handshakes, they were blunt on one point: this journey that these five World War II veterans were taking would likely be the last trip they would ever make to Pearl Harbor.
How can you begin to express how you feel about taking part in that kind of journey?
"It's hard to put it into words," Doug Watts, a World War II and Korean War veteran told me. "I can't tell you exactly how I feel. It's overwhelming to be able to make this trip. I kind of feel like I've won the lottery to go over and see these places."
Watts wasn't there on that "Date which will live in infamy," as President Roosevelt declared it. But the four colleagues from Colorado joining him for The Greatest Generations Foundation trip to Pearl Harbor this week were all there, surviving because of their own heroics and the many heroes who were around them.
"I didn't want to talk about it for a long time," said Pearl Harbor Survivor Jim Doyle. "But you know what? Some people today aren't too patriotic. Some of these guys saved the freedom we have today. We almost lost to the Japanese."
George Blake was among the 44,000 Army servicemen who were there that day. He is returning to Pearl Harbor after missing a scheduled trip due to an illness in the family one year ago.
"I get very emotional when I read the names. And think about these 19 and 20 years olds that were buried there," Blake said.
Another survivor, George Richard, admits no day goes by without the memories swirling through his mind. How could you forget something that ultimately defines who you are as an individual and as a nation?
"We were all stunned," Richard said. "From a peaceful Sunday morning to... to the thing happening."
This final journey will allow those incredible servicemen to realize the magnitude of their heroics one last time. They feel a bit selfish about the whole trip. But not one would trade the chance to see it for anything else in the world.
"We're going to close out one day," said Pearl Harbor Survivor Frank Mack. "I wouldn't turn it down for anything. It's kind of special. I'm enjoying this. I really am. Feelings? I am just glad to be here."
9NEWS reporters Dave Delozier and Chris Vanderveen are with that group of Pearl Harbor survivors and The Greatest Generations Foundation as they "Return to Pearl Harbor" for the 70th anniversary of the attack this Wednesday.
Look for reports from Dave and Chris this Tuesday and Wednesday on 9NEWS at 10.
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