It was 70 years ago since the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor launched by Japan brought the United States into World War II. Veterans gathered Wednesday at American Legion Post 62 in Dunkirk to mark the Dec. 7, 1941 day that ended American isolationism.
"The one thing is to make sure we keep remembering the day. It happened 70 years ago where about 2,400 lives were lost in the vicious attack on our sailors at Pearl Harbor," Post 62 Commander John Miga said in welcoming those in attendance. "Hopefully, the generations after us will carry the torch and always remember that horrific day."
Miga called on the Dunkirk Joint Veterans Council color guard to present the flag, after which DJVC Chaplain Sandy Tapasto read a prayer.
Pearl Harbor Day
"Heavenly Father, we are gathered to commemorate those among thy servants who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941," she said. "Because of their dedication to duty, we still enjoy the freedoms we inherited from our forefathers. Because they served well, we are proud to call them our own."
The Pledge of Allegiance was then recited by all in attendance.
Post 62 Vice Commander Cas "Butch' Piglowski then read the Missing Man Table ceremony, while fellow Vice Commander Craig Sutton lit the candle on the table.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
American Legion Post 62 Vice Commander Craig Sutton lights the candle on the POW/MIA Missing Man Table during a Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremony Wednesday at the Central Avenue post.
"We join together to pay humble tribute to them and to bear witness to their continued absence," Piglowski began before describing the significance of each item on the table.
"The red ribbon on the base represents the red ribbons worn on the lapels of thousands who demand with undying determination a proper account for our comrades who are not among us," he said of the most publically recognizable segment of the table. "The slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate. ... The chair is empty, they are not here. ... The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return and have paid the supreme sacrifice for our freedom."
Miga then read from a prepared statement, recalling 1941 as a time before television, when radio was "the new-fangled source of news and entertainment for our nation."
"To many people, it was the time of their young lives. In a flash those times were gone - along with thousands of lives - as Pearl Harbor was attacked," he stated. "It was a day that would live in 'infamy' - as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told an anxious nation of the attack."
Miga went on to say while many today may not remember Pearl Harbor, most will recall Sept. 11, 2001.
"The events of that September day that started out so routine quickly brought to mind the attack on Pearl Harbor," he continued. "For too many years, the memory of Dec. 7, 1941 was slipping away. It's heartbreaking to know that it took another tragic event to get us all thinking about our history."
Citing the technological advances made the last 70 years, Miga said "it is to those of us gathered here to keep alive the tragic lesson of Pearl Harbor. That is the challenge. The attack on Sept. 11 serves as a stark reminder that as citizens of this great land of freedom we all-too-often forget the lessons of history.
"That is why we gather to remember. ... We know that remembering that day is important to us and to the future of our nation. This is not a pleasant anniversary to recall. Yet, the bond that joins men and women in uniform draws us to such ceremonies because it is our duty to help young Americans understand the terrible price our nation once paid for lack of vigilance."
Miga added the nation survived both Pearl Harbor and 9-11, but those memories and images "must remain etched forever in the minds of succeeding generations. ... "remember Pearl Harbor' must ever be the symbol of the consequence of underestimating the threats to peace and world stability.
"Dec. 7, 1941 was a terrible lesson. For us to fulfill that obligation of a bond formed by our common experiences in uniform requires that we never allow this day to fade from the memory of our young citizens.
"You and I pay no finer tribute to those whom we remember on this day than to ensure that the nation for which they sacrificed remains free and strong enough to preserve its freedoms, no matter what the future holds.
"It is a history worth retelling over the generations. It is a lesson that we forgot. Because we forgot we allowed history to repeat itself. Dec. 7 is a lesson for all ages over the ages.
"That is why we are here today. Don't let anyone forget it."
The DJVC rifle squad fired their salute outside the clubrooms. Bugler Dave Dow played "Taps" and Sutton read the closing prayer before Miga thanked all for coming.
WWII veterans at Post 62 number between 35 and 40. Miga said many are 'snow birds' who he sees when they renew their memberships.
"There's quite a few in the area, it's just that they're homebound and things like that," he added. "They can't get out much."