Letter To The Editor:
This Thursday we will once again observe Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, which led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to proclaim December 7, 1941, "a date which will live in infamy".
Having served in the U.S. Navy and sailed on three West Pacific cruises, I was onboard ships as we entered and exited Pearl Harbor numerous times during port calls in Hawaii.
Each time we sailed past the Arizona Memorial, every sailor who was not directly involved in the operation of the ship lined up along the main deck in dress uniform to pay respect to the fallen sailors from the Japanese attack.
We attention and saluted while along the port side upon entering the harbor and along the starboard side as we headed back toward the sea.
During my time in, I had participated in a recovery of victims after a mudslide buried over 30 people near Subic City in the Republic of the Philippines and was in the Indian Ocean as we steamed toward the Persian Gulf during the Iranian crisis.
Not knowing for sure how any of my fellow sailors felt, I can say for certain, Pearl Harbor accounted for the most somber moments of my time in service knowing that it was where 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.
Many of those who died remain inside the passageways and small spaces of the Arizona in the very place it sank on that fateful day. Every passing brought tears in my eyes.
Over the years, I have gained more and more respect and appreciation for those who were serving at that point in time because the attack on Pearl Harbor thrust them into what became World War II.
Overall, there were 16,112,556 members of the United States Armed Forces during WWII. As 2017 draws to an end, that number has dwindled to around 558,000.
We have been told there are now 25,000 WWII veterans still living in Ohio.
In Coshocton County, at least 3,430 men and women from our Greatest Generation who served in the military. They left behind their farms and their factory jobs as well as their families, friends and neighbors. Some never returned. Most did, although they came with physical and emotional scars.
Without knowing for sure exactly how many remain here still, one thing is certain: they are fading fast. For example, since December 7, 2016, the Coshocton County Honor Guard has performed military funeral services for 39 World War II veterans.
Each time a burial flag is presented to a loved one, the rifle salute is fired and TAPS is performed, I am reminded of all those times we saluted those lying in their watery grave inside that peaceful harbor in Hawaii.
For all the veterans who remain, I ask that you keep them in your thoughts. For those we have lost, please keep them in your prayers as we observe Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and remember the sacrifices given by all who have served.
Coshocton County Veterans Service Officer.