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Williams to speak at local ceremony

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington Marine Corps League, Detachment 340, will continue honoring Pearl Harbor Day by hosting its annual ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7.

It is the 71st anniversary of the surprise attack by the Japanese, which killed 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians, and wounded 1,178 others.

Friday's ceremony will take place at Big Sandy Superstore Arena, followed by a wreath-laying ceremony, fire squad and the playing of "Taps" at Harris Riverfront Park.

Rick Shank, a commandant from the Huntington Detachment, said his goal remains to make sure the day and history won't be forgotten.

The keynote speaker is Hershel "Woody" Williams, a Marine Corps veteran of World War II who is the only living West Virginia Medal of Honor winner. Williams, 89, traveled to Hawaii this year to see the Pearl Harbor memorial.

Cabell County has one of the few surviving Pearl Harbor veterans in longtime Altizer resident T.R. Wickline.

The 90-year-old is a native of Hinton, W.Va. who made his home in Huntington following the war.

Five years ago, another Pearl Harbor survivor, George Washington Kelley Jr. passed away at the age of 82. He was a native of Wayne County and was in the thick of the attack loading machine guns to try and shoot down the planes. His widow, Ruth Kelley, still lives in Huntington and attends the annual remembrance ceremony.

Shank said its the stories of men like Wickline and Kelley that make it so important that Pearl Harbor Day doesn't become just another day on the country's historical calendar.

"It has been real interesting to hear their stories and the stories of sacrifice and what all Americans had to go through after that attack," Shank said. "Guys going to war and women working in factories to keep it going. It's an unbelievable story, the whole thing of World War II."

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