Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Pearl Harbor Veteran Pays Tribute to Southern Dead


Among those who gathered on the banks of the St. Marks River in North Florida on Sunday to remember the men and boys that served in the Battle of Natural Bridge was a gentleman with a remarkable story.

Mr. Newton Brooks of Gadsden County was in Hawaii on the morning of December 7, 1941, when Japanese aircraft launched a surprise attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. Unlike many of his brothers-in-arms aboard the ships that morning, he survived the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

It is rare to come across a Pearl Harbor survivor these days. In just three years we will mark the 70th anniversary of that day of infamy. To see one at a memorial service on a battlefield paying tribute to his Confederate ancestors is an extremely moving experience.

In his childhood, Mr. Brooks knew men from his own family that had ridden with Nathan Bedford Forrest in Tennessee. He has told me of how his father, as a young boy, was standing watching Forrest's men ride by the family farm when the general himself suddenly stopped and spoke to him. Mr. Brooks' father wound up accompanying Forrest and his men on the Johnsonville raid and was returned back to his family, safe and sound, as the men rode back from the expedition.

I've had the pleasure to become acquainted with Mr. Brooks and his wonderful wife in recent years. Both were on hand at the Battle of Natural Bridge memorial service on Sunday, paying their respects to the memory of the men and boys that defended Tallahassee on March 6, 1865.

Mr. Newton Brooks is one of our last direct links with the men who fought in 1861-1865 and also stands humbly as a man who stood and fought on America's darkest day. I pray he remains with us for many years to come.

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