OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) – Today is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. To honor the 81st anniversary of the attack that launched the U.S. into WWII, the American Legion Post 9 and the Golden Hours Veterans group held a ceremony in Ogden. Veterans from every arm of the military and multiple generations (including one WWII veteran) attended to remember all who’ve lost their life in the line of duty.
The sound of shots rang out across Lorin Farr Park in Ogden. An honor guard with the Disabled American Veterans offered a three-volley salute. The salute honored, in particular, the service members who died 3,000 miles away, 81 years ago, at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.
“Your hair stands up on the back of your head when you walk on the memorial,” Steven Ross told ABC4. “And then, I saw my grandfather’s name and I couldn’t see anything else. I had to sit down.”
As a boy, Steven Ross read a book about WWII at the request of his grandmother. When he had finished the book, she explained to him that her husband had died during the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was on the U.S.S. Arizona. “I hope that it went quick for him,” Ross stated. “But you know, there were some guys in the bottom of it that it didn’t go quick for them.”
Later in his life, Ross would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps by joining the military. He joined the Army and fought in the Gulf War. He told ABC4 that while in combat, he watched some of his friends die as a result of the fighting. That makes the Pearl Harbor memorial ceremony even more meaningful for him. He added: “That gets me thinking about him (his friend who died in the Gulf War) and his kids.”
Ross was just one of many veterans to attend.
“To support our military, to remember the ones who have put the uniform on, who have raised their hand and said, ‘I will go wherever you want me to go, and I will do whatever you want me to do, including giving my life.’” Barbara Garcia-Beck stated. “And so many have (given their lives).”
Garcia-Beck was also at the ceremony. She offered the opening prayer. On the day of the attack, Garcia-Beck was just an infant. However, the war stretched long enough for her to have vivid memories of life in the southern U.S. during wartime.
“We participated in all the saving of cans and the things that we did back then to help the cause,” she added.
These memories would leave a lasting influence. They even played a part in her deciding to join the Air Force and serve during the Vietnam War. “I thought about all the people who’d gone before and made that decision, and it made it pretty easy for me to make that decision.”
At the end of the ceremony, those in attendance were handed red flowers to throw into the Ogden River. The flowers are symbols of the blood that was spilled at Pearl Harbor 81 years ago. According to the National WWII Museum, 2,403 people were killed that day. Of those killed, 2,008 were from the Navy, 218 from the Army, 109 from the Marines, and 68 were civilians. Additionally, 1,178 people were injured. Of those injured, 710 were from the Navy, 364 from the Army, 69 from the Marines, and 35 were civilians.
On that day, John Cole was just 14 years old. At 17, he decided to enlist in the Marines. “We don’t do every man for himself,” Cole told ABC4. “We’re all one.”
Cole is now 95 years old. He and his wife have been married for 76 years. Even now, he continues to attend ceremonies, like the one held in Ogden, to honor his fellow Americans.
“When I’m doing these things, I’m not doing them for me, I’m doing them for the guys who never made it home because there’s so many of them,” he stated.
While Cole enlisted during WWII, he didn’t see combat. However, that changed during the Korean War. While serving in what’s now North Korea, he was encircled by the enemy. He told ABC4 he, and his fellow marines, thought all was lost. Nonetheless, they worked together to escape enemy hands and flee into the wilderness.
“On television that night, the wife saw, the first marine division had been annihilated by hordes of Chinese communists,” he recounted. While the outside world thought he had died, he (and his division) spent more than 20 days trekking through the wilderness to make it down to the ocean in South Korea.
At 95, Cole is still actively participating in Golden Hours. He works to do what he can to remember those lost to war and hopes to see a change in how veterans are treated at home. He explained: “We’ve got problems in America today. The guys that went and fought for the war, everything they fought for is being taken away from them.”