A Navy bosun’s mate rings the ceremonial bell as veterans from campaigns spanning American history share a moment of silence and solidarity for those only able to attend in spirit.
The sound resonates across the American Legion Post 19’s Main Hall in Yuma to commemorate National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Dec. 7. The revered naval tradition and ceremony is also carried out in memory of all those lost defending our nation’s freedom through operations in World War II.
On what was dubbed a day that would live in infamy by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 saw a surprise aerial assault on the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Empire of Japan. The strike took the lives of more than 2,300 service members and sparked what would be the second great war of our time.
“People forget that more than just Pearl Harbor got attacked,” said Chuck Wullenjohn, a retired Coast Guard chief petty officer who served for 26 years and guest speaker for the occasion. “Throughout the Pacific, including Wake Island – We can’t forget about any of the American servicemen who were touched by that day.”
Veterans from different organizations in Yuma, like the Veterans of Foreign Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, were in attendance. An appearance by special guests’ and Pearl Harbor survivors got the loudest ovations at the annual observance.
“Oh, the ceremony was just great – can’t beat it,” said Anthony Nady, a Pearl Harbor survivor, retired 21-year Navy chief warrant officer and a native of Johnstown, Penn. “I think of some of my buddies that never made it, like my classmate who was on the USS Arizona. Pearl Harbor got him.”
Squadron badges, service ribbons, campaign pins, and even some tattoos adorned the heroes who made it out to Post 19’s Main Hall. The Legion-hosted remembrance was made all the more special by the familiar and unbreakable bond shared amongst all of the servicemen and women present. Stories, laughs and memories were bantered about over a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage.
“We’re here to be able to plug these guys into an environment where they’re cared about, where they’re understood,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Johnson, a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics 1 aviation medical technician, Post 19 chaplain and a native of Belle Plaine, Minn. “It’s like having family around them.”
Respects were paid to prisoners of war and those still missing in action with an open seat at their own candle-lit table for one. The seat was up front, for all to see, honor and remember.
As the ceremony drew to a close, select dignitaries were recognized and the benediction was read. The Pearl Harbor survivors were recognized again, which drew a standing round of applause.
“I really believe, in my heart, that this was the best one. Look at the crowd – Over 200 people in here right now,” said Terry Greene, a retired Marine, Post 19 Commander and native of Allentown, Penn. “It was an outstanding show of support by the community. Thank you so much.”
For active duty and retired veterans alike, the 71st anniversary and remembrance day ceremony brought out our nation’s most treasured citizens. At Post 19, the event brought out a deep sense of appreciation for our brothers and sisters who couldn’t make the trip. Never forget those who came before us and honor those who we still have around.