The following is a story and pictures,  exactly how I received it, from my brother John. Thanks Al


The highlight of my Hawaiian vacation in early August was going to be a visit to Pearl Harbor. Not only to walk the hallowed grounds where over 3500  brave men and women lost their lives on that dreadful December 7th morning in 1941, but also to drop the “Warriors’ Watch Riders Honor Coin” that my brother Al, Coordinator of the New York State Warrior Watch Riders, had given me, and asked me to drop at the USS Arizona Memorial.  Little did I know that not only was this visit going to be the highlight of my Hawaiian vacation, but one of the highlights of my life.  As a person who has read numerous books about battles in the Pacific Theater during the World War II and who is quite aware of the many sacrifices our heroes had to endure, some surviving, others not. This visit made me feel as though I was there and that I knew many of the men who lost their lives that fateful day.

It all started the morning of August 9th when my wife and I boarded the bus to take a guided tour of the “World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument” as the memorial is officially known. I left the hotel with my, wife and camera and my hand on the “Coin” in my pocket, while reliving the many books I had read about the attack.  This was going to be a great and somber day. Throughout the tour, I had pictures taken of me with the “Coin” that I was going to proudly drop in the water, with a prayer of thanks to each and every person who made the ultimate sacrifice that day. That, and also to document for Al that his “Coin” had reached his intended destination.

The first visit was to the USS Oklahoma, a fairly new memorial which was formally dedicated on December 7th 2007 as an enduring reminder of the ship and her 429 men who had lost their lives on December 7th.  Then to the USS Missouri, “Big MO”. This long lived battleship saw action in Iwo Jima, Okinowa, the islands of Japan, Korea and Operation Desert Storm. It was also the site of the surrender of the the Empire of Japan.   It was decommissioned in 1992 and is moored as a museum just 500 yards from the USS Arizona Memorial. While standing on the bow of the ship you get the feeling that she is there to watch over the remains of the Arizona and her crew. As I mentioned earlier, this was a guided tour we were on, and we had to meet the guide after only 90 minutes.  I wish we had at least another hour there. This ship was very impressive.

From Big Mo we went on to Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island. After reading so much about the attack, this tour put it all together.  The guide was very impressive.  He put you right into the battle.  From being a pilot in an attacking Japanese Zero, to an American pilot trying to get airborne. He made you feel like you were living the battle, He explained the logistics of the Japanese attack, and the various types of planes in battle. Many of  which were on display. The hanger the planes were in, still bore the scars of broken windows from the bullets of the attacking planes. The guide himself was of Japanese descent. Though I am sure there are, I cannot imagine anyone knowing more about the battle than him. He was so enthusiastic, and not a question was asked that he did not know the answer to. He was awesome.

Finally we were headed to the USS Arizona. This tour started off with a 20 minute film about the attack, then onto the memorial . From the theater we took a 10 minute boat ride which brings you out to the memorial itself. With my hand on the “Coin”, I knew the time was getting close to where it would be dropped into the water. As we disembarked the boat and entered the memorial, a sudden somberness fell upon me.  I was in a place where 1,177 crew members perished aboard the USS Arizona lone. They were right below me. I envisioned and almost felt what those persons were going through at the time of the attack.  I browsed around looking into the water, where you can actually see parts of the battleship.  It was impressive and at the same time very depressive. I took the “Coin” from my pocket and tried to find a place where I would not be seen and drop it. Suddenly I asked myself, “why am I being so secretive about dropping the “Coin” ? I began to feel as if I would be desecrating the tomb of those interred below. “Why should I drop the “Coin”? Was it so I can say “I did it”? Or so Al could say he had a “Coin” placed at the memorial? Though I felt I was letting Al down, I could not drop it. I could not desecrate their final resting space.  I felt like I was letting Al down. as he was so psyched when giving me the “Coin” to drop. I hoped that he would understand  why the “Coin” was being returned to him when I got back.

As I was getting ready to embark on the boat for the return trip back to the theater, I noticed the captain and his mate greeting everyone as they boarded.  I walked up to him and explained what my plan was and why I could not bring myself to do it. He thanked me for my reverence as I instead presented the “Coin” to him.  I then boarded the boat and took my seat.  After we left the dock, the mate came to me and said “The captain would like to see you at the helm.” As I approached, the captain asked me to step up to the helm as he turned the helm over to me. While we cruised back to the dock, we chatted. I learned that his name was SN Adrian Murillo a native of Conoga Park CA and member of the USS Arizona Detachment at Pearl Harbor.  Seaman Murillo was a recent graduate of Annapolis and would be stationed at Pearl Harbor for the next 3 years.  What a gig I thought. I actually felt proud to be in his presence. As we approached the dock, he asked me if I wanted to bring it in, at which point, l figured it would be safer for all aboard if I turned the helm back over to the captain. In reality I did not want to make a fool of myself by showing my lack of mariner skills.  As I began to step down from the helm a group of visitors on the boat began to applaud. Probably because they felt they were back in safe hands. Just prior to disembarking the boat, the captain again thanked me and shook my hand, at which point I responded, “Thank you for service Captain. It has been an honor to sail with you sir.” and disembarked the vessel.

Visiting Pearl Harbor has been on my Bucket List for some time.  I was lucky enough to make the trip, but it has not fallen off the bucket list. I would readily go back, at the drop of a hat if I had the opportunity. However, on my second visit I would not take the tour. There was too much I missed. I like to read all the descriptions of items and pictures. However, if I were visiting for the first time, I definitely would recommend the 1 day tour and then plan on spending at least another 1/2 to full day there afterwords to get to the exhibits I missed.