In his speech before the U. S. Congress on December 8th, 1941, he referred to the “unprovoked and dastardly attack” by “by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan” on the U. S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, asking congress to declare war on Japan. Together, these events collectively marked the United States’ entry into World War Two.
As might be expected, therefore, the television and radio airwaves this weekend are filled with documentaries about Pearl Harbor. So are innumerable podcasts and internet sites.
One of the best I was privileged to see was one titled “Remember Pearl Harbor”, narrated by Tom Selleck. If you have a chance to view it, I highly recommend doing so. Rather than just telling the basic history and showing the familiar clips of the attack, it moves through the sequence of the attack with interviews from survivors, allowing many of those who were involved and were still alive at the time of its filming to tell their stories personally, and telling the stories of many of those involved but now deceased on their behalf.
Selleck relates one story in particular that struck me as powerful. On the morning of the attack, U. S. Army Air Corp Lieutenant Glenn Sorensen had just finished detailing his prized possession: a 1937 Buick sedan. At the time, he loved that car more than anything else in this world. But the sudden realization that he and his nation were under attack immediately changed his priorities.
The Sacramento Bee newspaper picks up the story…
“I look up in the sky and it’s full of Japanese airplanes,” (Sorenson) said from his recliner tucked in a corner of his living room. After the first attack, (he) climbed into his Buick, speeding for the flight line and awaiting aircraft. A dozen brand-new B-17 Flying Fortresses were arriving that day. He was too late. ‘All of our planes and hangars were destroyed. I was strafed during the second attack,’ Sorensen continued. ‘They were also dropping bombs and strafing the field.’
Three of those rounds struck Sorensen’s sedan, but somehow missed him. From his recliner 73 years later, Sorensen reached for a small manila pouch. Typed in tiny print on its face, the pouch reads in part: ‘This bullet was lodged in Lt. Glenn Sorensen’s 1937 Buick.’ ‘It was the greatest car I ever owned,’ he said. ‘And it likely saved his life.’”
As I first watched (and later read the newspaper account) of Sorenson’s ordeal, I was reminded that crises, whenever they come our way, quickly have the power to help us prioritize.
By Lieutenant Sorenson’s own admission, in 1941, few things were ever as prized as by him as that 1937 Buick Sedan. He loved it, babied it, and cared for it extensively. But all that changed - in a split second - in the twinkling of an eye. For once he grasped the fact that his country was sunder attack, he immediately regarded that beloved automobile as expendable. As such, he willingly sacrificed it to the fierce onslaught of the enemy.
Why? Precisely because, by default, it quickly became an expendable asset in the struggle for a far greater purpose. Simply put: his beloved car suddenly mattered very little when compared to his own life and his liberty, as well as those of his fellow man!
In many respects, Sorenson’s experience prefigured that of his nation. Countless United States ships, planes, trains, tanks, and other such pieces of equipment were ultimately to be deemed expendable in the greater cause of victory over fascist tyranny and oppression.
80 years on, what can we glean from all of this? For me, at least, the answer is obvious. Few, if any, would question the assertion that we now live in in a day and age when many are accustomed to placing a premium on material possessions. Given this state of affairs, does it not now behoove us to learn from the experience of men like Lieutenant Glenn Sorensen? Indeed it does!
As someone who is now 60 years of age, I will admit that I have to stop and count up the various vehicles I have driven, owned, and/or prized in my lifetime. To the best of my knowledge, that number now sits at 22. Make that number 27 if one includes motorcycles, tractors, and the like. Make it 36 if one includes riding lawnmowers! And yet, of all these, I can only account for the whereabouts of less than 10. The rest are simply gone forever.
In retrospect, therefore, no matter how much I may have prized each and every one of them in their time, I now recognize how little they have mattered in the face of more significant possessions. After all, what is an automobile (or any other possession) when compared to my freedom?!
To their credit, what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation” willingly let go of all things material in order to obtain a far greater good. May we willingly follow their example! And may we do this not only in a corporeal sense, but also in a spiritual sense!
After all, did not Jesus Himself admonish us thusly when He asked the piercing question, “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Little wonder, then, that the Apostle Paul would go on to say that he considered everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord, for Whose sake he had lost all things. As he put it: “I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”
Glenn Sorenson understood this principle. So do I.
The question is: “Do you?”