Our second day in Honolulu we unanimously decided to visit Pearl Harbor.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but just as a back story let me tell you that nobody in my entire family except a couple of nephews and a cousin have ever served in the military. Not because my ancestors actively tried to avoid it, but rather, they were in lines of service that were exempt from military duty - mostly farmers and teachers.
So although I thought I would enjoy the memorial from a historical perspective, I didn't really think it would reach me emotionally. After all, I didn't know anybody who had served in WWII or any war thereafter.
I was so, so wrong.
I was fine through the short film you watch before you can get on the ferry.
I was fine on the ferry ride over to the USS Arizona memorial.
I was fine walking around the memorial, looking at the remains of the sunken ship barely below the surface, having difficulty imagining the harbor under Japanese attack - the chaos and smoke and fire, over a thousand men trapped for all eternity below the Arizona's decks.
And then we walked into the shrine room. It wasn't all of the names on the marble wall, although that was certainly beautifully touching.
It was when I noticed the older gentleman in front of me. He wore a summery shirt like many of the other tourists enjoying a popular tourist attraction on a mild Hawaiian winter's day. But there was a ball cap on his head embroidered with "USS Submarine Service Veteran." And then I thought I saw him shake slightly. Silently. Then dab his eyes with a cloth handkerchief.
That was enough for me. My eyes filled and my throat choked. This memorial meant something powerful to this man. I will never know his name or even what his story was - or even if he had been in the harbor that day or perhaps involved in the battles afterwards.
But it wasn't so hard to picture anymore - the harbor under fire, men trying desperately to protect their ships, to pull their comrades out of the burning, oil-slicked water.
Thousands died that day, with over a thousand entombed forever in the watery grave of the Arizona.
It would have been difficult to imagine at all, were it not for the silent tears of a veteran.