When Spc. Justin Moore, a Knighthawk Soldier from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, stepped into the Rotunda of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, he said he was taken aback with humility. Not only because of the historical regalia on display, but at the presence of so many World War II veterans.
"It made me look at what I've done so far, and what everyone else has done," said Spc. Moore, an air traffic control equipment repairman. "I've been to Afghanistan, and we lost people. It's interesting to know that we all feel the same thing."
Specialist Moore and eight other Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, acted as the firing squad for the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony Dec. 4 at the museum, capping the day's program with a 21-gun salute in honor of America's fallen defenders.
The Soldiers were not the only active-duty servicemembers to participate. The event's guest speaker Capt. Joseph Creed, the commanding officer of the USS Normandy of Norfolk Naval Operating Base, Va., brought a contingent of Sailors as well. Sea Cadets from the Savannah Squadron, US Naval Sea Cadet Corps presented and retired the colors.
Marine Corps veteran Joe Conners, who was recognized as the Veterans Council of Chatham County Veteran of the Year, said that though he enjoyed the day's ceremony, the resurfaced memories felt like the stings of old wounds.
"Sure, I'll reflect on them, but sometimes I'd rather forget them," said Conners.
Conners said he remembers the moment he first heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor. He was ten, out with his father at the movies, when a theater employee stopped the show.
"A guy came out on the stage and told all military personnel to report to their units right away," said Conners. "He wouldn't say why, and my daddy said 'Uh-oh.'" They later learned the reason from a local fireman on the way home.
It's a story that echoes the where-were-you tales of another homeland attack: the tragedy of September 11, 2001, which made veterans out of young men such as Spc. Justin Moore.
After his involvement in the day's ceremony, Spc. Moore said he gained a deeper appreciation of events honoring veterans.
"It made me happy, but it also made me sad, because I feel we should be doing more events like this," he said, and added that he plans to attend memorial ceremonies well after his active-duty days are done.
When that day comes, and today's veterans are as old as Joe Conners, our future warriors will be there, honoring their predecessors.