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PEARL HARBOR - Veterans, active duty service members and their families gathered at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center to honor the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor during a Commemoration Ceremony, Dec. 7.
The theme, “Rising to the Challenge,” highlights events during the first year after the attack, 75 years ago, as the United States rose to face challenges – both at war and on the home front – in order to achieve greater peace, freedom, and democracy in the world, including in Japan and in Europe.
“Today we pay tribute to those members of the Greatest Generation,” said Jason Blout, Chief of Interpretation for the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. “ They rose to the challenge, in the name of freedom, in order to achieve a more peaceful world.”
The ceremony customarily began with the USS Arizona ship’s bell being rung at exactly 07:55, followed by a moment of silence to commemorate the beginning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and honoring those who courageously fought and died that day.
“The bell you hear is from the USS Arizona,” said Blout. “ As the resting place of more than a thousand Sailors and Marines, the USS Arizona represents all American service members killed on December 7th, and stands in honor of all who were lost in World War II.”
The ceremony paid tribute to those who lost their lives during the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, including a “Missing Man” flyover formation, a Hawaiian blessing, wreath presentations from each branch of the armed forces, and the rendering of honors led by Chief Storekeeper (ret) Al Rodrigues, a Pearl Harbor survivor.
“It was an honor to stand and represent all Pearl Harbor survivors,” said Rodrigues. “ I am grateful for the opportunity to salute all those who have fallen.”
Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, spoke directly to the World War II veterans, thanking them for the sacrifices they made in the past, forging a cultural heritage of resilience that Sailors continue to draw from today.
“It is truly an honor to be able to join you in the remembrance of those heroes that were unexpectedly thrust into the crucible of war here more than seven decades ago,” said Swift. “Heroes whose honor, courage and commitment amidst adversity continues to inspire generations of American service members today.”
Keynote speaker and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Steve Twomey shared personal accounts of people whose lives were forever changed after the events of December 7th, uniting the country in an unwavering resolve to fight and rise to the challenges before them.
The ceremony ended with a rifle salute performed by a U.S. Marine Corps rifle detail, the playing of Echo Taps by the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, and a vintage 1940s Globe Swift plane fly-by.
As the Pearl Harbor survivors and World War II veterans left the ceremony, dozens of present-day service members lined the exit to create a “Walk of Honor,” issuing a hand salute as they walked through, in honor of their service and sacrifice.