SLIDESHOW: America remembers Pearl Harbor
The story of what they and thousands of others like them went through will certainly live on, but that story will never again be told with the same color and verbiage when that day inevitably comes.
Who will tell us precisely what happened on Dec. 7, 1941, on the island of Oahu, when the last of the eyewitnesses has passed from this earth?
It's why our trip with 23 other Pearl Harbor survivors to Hawaii earlier this month was as humbling as it was enlightening.
Doyle came right out and said it.
"This is kind of the last hurrah for a lot of us," he said the day we left Denver International Airport bound for Honolulu. "I don't think a lot of us will be going back."
The one-time photographer for the Navy witnessed the attack on the Naval Air Station on Ford Island. To this day, he says, he can't get the smell of the burning harbor out of his mind.
Richard didn't see the first wave of Japanese fighters, but he certainly did feel the attack as he sat below deck on the USS Tennessee. He still has a hard time when someone calls him a hero.
"[Those who died that day] are the heroes," he said. "I don't look at myself being a hero. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary. I did my job."
Blake was playing basketball in a gym at Fort Kamahameha when he first heard the sounds of machine gun fire.
"We came out of the gymnasium, and several of us looked up at planes that were flying at roof-top level," he said.
For a week, we traveled with some of the most colorful people you would ever hope to meet over the course of a lifetime.
We took a boat to the USS Arizona Memorial only to quietly listen as a former sailor named Archie Gregory. He told us about the moment he had been sent into the air just after a bomb had hit the USS Arizona's forward ammunition room.
"It exploded. I flew through the air like a balloon," he said.
I watched as person after person approached a humble man like Pat Duncan and asked him for an autograph or a chance to pose alongside him for a quick picture. Duncan was on the USS Raleigh when a Japanese torpedo hit it shortly after 8 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941.
I shed a tear or two when I saw strangers at the USS Arizona Memorial give the survivors a hearty round of applause when they saw a few in wheelchairs enter one of the rooms.
And I smiled a ton when I saw the survivors ride in the backs of Corvettes during an evening parade down the main street of Waikiki.
This was the kind of week that can only be described as unforgettable.
Yet, it all left me wondering. What will this country lose when it loses its last survivor? And what will this country lose when it loses its last veteran of World War II?
Yes, the story will continue without its primary authors, but it will almost certainly lack the kind of depth that many of us have taken for granted over the last seven decades.
I don't know if there is any way to rectify that. But I for one will feel incredibly lucky to have spent just a few moments with the kind of men who have gone out of their ways to insist they are not heroes.
Honestly, this country could use a few more heroes like that.
For more information on the Greatest Generations Foundation, go to www.tggf.us.
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