The Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 46 sponsored a Pearl Harbor Day observance Saturday morning at the American Legion Hall in Hinesville. Local veterans attended the ceremony to honor the nearly 2,500 Americans who died during the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the island of Oahu.
One veteran participating in the ceremony, Graydon H. Martin of Midway, said he joined the Army as soon as he was old enough to serve. Martin served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, retiring as a first sergeant.
“I came in right out of the barnyard,” Martin said, laughing as he recalled leaving his family farm in upstate New York in 1944 to serve his country. “I had a couple breaks in service, but I retired in 1970 when my doggone legs got to where I had to wear braces to walk.”
Martin shared war stories with fellow veteran and DAV member Ralph Dixon, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Both men took positions of honor with Hinesville City Councilman David Anderson near the guest speaker, Lt. Col. Gregory Bell, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker also attended the ceremony, along with Sgt. Maj. Michael Doggett of the Division Headquarters Provost Marshall’s Office and members of his staff. Cadets with the Bradwell Institute’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps provided the color guard and logistical support, including a bugler who played “Taps.”
DAV Chapter 46 Senior Vice Commander Frank Sceidt began the ceremony after guests heard a recording of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “a day in infamy” speech. After the posting of the colors, the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, DAV Chapter 46 Commander Walter Helmick and the ladies of the DAV Auxiliary laid a wreath.
“I remember watching news footage of the USS Arizona on fire when I was a kid,” Sceidt said. “I remember my mother saying, ‘Those poor boys. They never had a chance.’ It’s right that we commemorate Pearl Harbor Day for those boys and remember all those involved in that event.”
Sceidt said he agreed with Isoroku Yamamoto, former commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Combined Fleet, that Japan’s unprovoked sneak attack merely “awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”
“I did a little research and realized it wasn’t just sailors but soldiers and civilians who were also involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Bell said as he began his remarks. “It wasn’t just the Navy’s fight; it was America’s fight. We can’t forget those who returned fire on Japanese planes while the ships they were on were sinking, or those who jumped into the murky waters to rescue their fellow sailors, or those brave pilots who took to the skies despite being outnumbered.”
Bell, a native of Valdosta, described how those involved in the attack said they never got over the stench of crude oil or the smell of burning paint, and they never got over the loss of friends. Comparing the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bell noted that Americans always are inspired by the great things done by fellow Americans.
“Americans have an unbinding will to turn defeat into triumph,” he said. “Whenever we’ve become a target, we’ve fought back. We can only hope that Americans in the future will remember and emulate the World War II generation — as well as the young soldiers today who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Bell’s remarks were followed by the ceremonial ringing of a bell by Garlon Penland of DAV Chapter 46. The bell was rung once for each year of World War II — 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1944 — and was followed by “Taps” and Helmick’s closing remarks.
According to PearlHarbor.com, the death toll from the attack on Pearl Harbor included 2,004 military personnel and 68 civilians, with 1,177 of those killed trapped on the USS Arizona when it went down. On Dec. 8, 1941, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a Declaration of War in response to the Japanese attack. Six months later, a battered-but-not-beaten Pacific Fleet defeated the Japanese navy in the Battle of Midway.