By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke,
USS Ronald Reagan Public Affairs
YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 27, 2016) – How do we remember an event in history where generations were lost to hatred? Men, women and children were lost in a war not based on the pursuit of energy or procurement of land and natural resources, but rather a war waged on humanity based on racism and stereotypes. When discrimination and genocide fell hand in hand, an estimated eleven million Jews, Gypsies (also known as Roma), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian pastors, disabled, gays, communists, socialists, native resistors and any other deemed “inferior” were starved, burned, shot, gassed, dissected or torture by the Nazi regime.
Today, far removed from the European continent of the 1940s, Sailors aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), whose ages range from baby boomers to millennials, took time to remember those who suffered and were lost to the Holocaust.
“It’s important for the Navy to have a remembrance like this to educate our Sailors about the events of history,” said Lt. Cole Yoos, a U.S. Navy chaplain on board Ronald Reagan, “to be sure that we never forget some of the things that happened in the past for the purpose of ensuring that we don’t allow these things to happen again.”
To mark the beginning of Ronald Reagan’s Holocaust remembrance observance, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Jervaine Bonney, from West Palm Beach, Florida, stood in the ship’s chapel dressed in blue digital camouflage surrounded by his shipmates. Much like a family story passed through generation, Bonney passed flame to a candle. With a withdrawal of hand and puff of breath, Bonney’s illuminated face quickly joined his shipmates’ as it retreated to the shadows of the dimly lit chapel, remaining was a single flame.
“It was an honor to light the candle for today’s remembrance,” said Bonney.
Throughout the day, the candle burned with steady resolve, perhaps representing the ongoing memory of those lost during the Holocaust and the latest generation’s determination to make sure that memory remains.
The remembrance observance held from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. highlighted stories of courageous people who risked their lives to help others during the Holocaust. In conjunction with the ship’s chapel, Ronald Reagan’s diversity committee created, gathered and organized historical displays of documents, quotes, photographs, videotaped interviews of Holocaust survivors, and the ship’s Holocaust Torah for the crew to read and view.
“This is a very big part of our history,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Click, from Dallas, Texas. “I think the people that do remember are doing everything they can to prevent something like this from happening again.”
Ronald Reagan’s crew consists of more than 3,300 Sailors from nearly every continent. Shipmates who hold different beliefs, customs, heritages, tradition and religions. They are men and women who eat, study, live, and work together as one to achieve a mission – the mission of “peace through strength.”
The number of Ronald Reagan’s crew often brings surprise to those who hear it for the first time. Imagine 3,300 aircraft carriers, each with 3,300 people – that’s about how many lives were lost in the genocide.
Holocaust victim Anne Frank wrote in her diary, “Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart,”