After 77 years, Dec. 7, 1941 continues to be “a date which will live in infamy.”
Those words by President Franklin Roosevelt after Japan’s surprise attack of the United States at Pearl Harbor, ushering the country into World War II, served as a backdrop during the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony Friday at the American Legion in Jacksonville.
“I’m here because I don’t want us to ever forget Dec. 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,” said John Holmes, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major who was among about 70 people to attend the ceremony.
Capt. Greg Nezat, director of professional education at Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune, served as guest speaker at the ceremony honoring the 2,403 people who died at Pearl Harbor. He said surprise attacks on the United States are not uncommon, as he brought up the Beirut bombing in 1983 and even the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898 in Cuba that eventually led to the Spanish-American War.
“We’ve known throughout history that there will be surprise attacks,” said Nezat. “You always have to be prepared for that. Whether you’re on a ship, whether you’re a Marine or whether you’re Navy medical, you always, always prepare because you never know where it’s going to come, but it’s going to come.”
The ceremony came less than a week after the death of former President George H.W. Bush, the last president to serve in the military during World War II. Nezat pointed out that World War II veterans continue to pass on, with just 32 WWII veterans living in Onslow County.
“We’re losing a lot of our World War II veterans,” said Nezat. “These remembrances are not just of the event but of those individuals, like Lt. J.G. Bush bailing out of his aircraft in World War II. I think it’s very symbolic. It just reminds us that these heroes aren’t going to be around forever.”
The Rolling Thunder organization put on a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action ceremony in which hats representing all the armed services were placed at an empty table.
“I lost a lot of good friends in Vietnam,” said Robert Meador, a member of Rolling Thunder who took part in the ceremony. “I just want to make sure everybody knows we won’t forget our POWs and MIAs from all the wars.”
He said the importance of Dec. 7 should be remembered as well.
“We can’t ever forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Pearl Harbor,” Meador said. “We need to get more participation in this day, because without them, we might be living in a Communist country.”
Nezat and Jerry Griffin, commander of American Legion Burton-Cowell Post 265 in Jacksonville, placed a wreath during the ceremony in honor of those killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
“Let’s not forget. Let’s not forget,” said Nezat. “As times go on, those things I’ve mentioned — ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler too’ and ‘Remember the Maine’ — those were all battle cries way back when, and over time we seem to forget about them. We’re pretty good with World War II because we have the video and we have the audio, but let’s not forget.”
For more pictures from the ceremony, click here: http://www.camplejeuneglobe.com/gallery/pearl-harbor-remembrance-day-ceremony/collection_c65e3912-fa5a-11e8-923c-d75805306042.html