Although Japan's surprise attack on Dec. 7, 1941, on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is sometimes overshadowed these days by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the date should never be forgotten, Mike Mauer said.
"It is important for young people to remember the sacrifices made by past generations, especially since those individuals are not just names in a history book but are your neighbors, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and great-grandparents,'' said Mr. Mauer, quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid.
The VFW post is co-sponsoring a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony Friday with the American Merchant Marine Veterans of the Mon Valley. The ceremony is open to the public an will be held at 12:55 p.m. at West Mifflin Area High School, 91 Commonwealth Ave., West Mifflin. The time was chosen with a purpose: It will be 7:55 a.m. in Hawaii, the time the bombing began 71 years ago.
The event has been staged annually since 1991.
Patriotic songs will be performed by the high school's Titan Thunder Marching Band, and the school's Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard and chorale groups will participate.
Featured speaker will be West Mifflin Class of 1993 graduate Brady O'Hanlon of King George, Va., branch chief of training and exercise for the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Department of Homeland Security.
He is one of four sons of Joseph Sr. and Katheen O'Hanlon of Whitaker. All of their sons have had military service in keeping with the family tradition dating to 1812.
"The stories of how courageously many of the individual servicemen fought back during the attack, as well as the demonstration of what President [Franklin] Roosevelt called the 'righteous might' of the American people in his 'Day of Infamy' speech to mobilize and ultimately carry the Allies on to victory, demonstrates for me the best of the American spirit," Brady O'Hanlon said.
Pearl Harbor survivors will be recognized, including Pearson Harkema, 92, of Monessen and Felix Scocchera, 94, of Highland Park.
Mr. Harkema was a Fire Controlman First Class on the battleship USS Oklahoma. As it was sinking during the attack, he escaped by jumping over the side into oil-soaked water.
He recovered from his wounds and continued his Naval service.
"It gives you a good feeling that people remember, but in a few years, they won't remember, like D-Day, but I will always remember Pearl Harbor," he said.
Mr. Scocchera, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, was stationed about 30 miles from Pearl Harbor at Wheeler Field when the attack began. He later served at other duty stations throughout World War II.
Mr. O'Hanlon said the Pearl Harbor attacks and today's Homeland Security are connected by the same values that set us apart in the world.
"As long as America continues to be a nation of liberty and individual freedom and a society which embraces religious tolerance and expression, individual aspiration, and various political viewpoints, there may be those who wish to harm us for valuing those principles," he said. "Most of all, it defines a country worth defending at all costs."
For more information: Mike Mauer at 412-461-2305.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org