Veterans, community come together
HUNTINGTON -- Nearly 200 military veterans and community members came together Friday afternoon in hopes of passing the memory of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the lessons learned from it to a new generation.
Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Ceremony at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena, where Huntington Detachment 340 of the Marine Corps League shared in remembering the lives lost in the attack 71 years ago and the war that followed.
The ceremony was conducted by Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe, and it included a performance of "God Bless the USA" as well as the posting of the colors by Huntington High School's JROTC.
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershel "Woody" Williams was the guest speaker at the event.
He recalled the day of the attack and how it changed his life. He was serving in the Army corps at the time, and he was allowed to leave the corps in favor of joining a different branch of the military. He chose the Marine Corps.
"For people like me, we have not forgotten that day," Williams said. "After that day, we thought we were going to stay in America and dare any other country to attack us again. We didn't realize how wrong we were."
Williams, went on to serve during the Battle of Iwo Jima in February 1945 before he was wounded the following month.
On Friday, he took the familiar journey to Harris Riverfront Park, where representatives from local veterans groups placed wreaths on the Ohio River in remembrance of the lives lost during the attack. The Veterans Honor Guard from American Legion Post 16 provided a 21-gun salute and played Taps.
Rick Shank, the commandant for the local Marine Corps League, has organized the ceremony in recent years. He said he hoped participants, whether they were veterans or ordinary citizens, were able to feel a personal connection to the event.
"Of course, it is important to acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made to get where we are today and to let our veterans know we appreciate them," he said. "We also want to make sure our young people have the chance to know and appreciate the road we've taken to get here, and that lets our veterans know that their efforts won't be forgotten."
Wolfe, who is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, said it's important for cities like Huntington to take the time to honor and remember all of the battles the United States has faced in its more than 200-year history.
"Many people living in Huntington today were born after the attack on Pearl Harbor," Wolfe said. "But, it is important that we remember all of the struggles and battles that millions of men and women went through to ensure the liberties we enjoy today."