Veterans Honored December 7 at Island’s VFW - 2003
by Michael J. Owen

(Left) VFW #9249 Honor Guard; Bugler Mike Coffman plays Taps; Pearl Harbor Ceremony
Photos and Story by U.S. Navy Journalist Michael J. Owen
   On Sunday Dec. 7, Grand Island residents and veterans gathered in the brisk morning air to honor and remember Pearl Harbor Veterans that served 62 years ago on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. The Japanese “sneak attack” of submarines and carrier-based planes launched against the U.S. Pacific fleet and other military installations there in 1941 jettisoned America into the Second World War.
   The Pearl Harbor Day ceremony, held under the American Flag flying half-mast in front of the Charles N. DeGlopper Memorial VFW Post #9249, included members of VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and town officials.
   “At this time, as we honor Pearl Harbor’s veterans, we’re also reminded of the sacrifices of those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq today,” said Grand Island Deputy Town Supervisor Richard Crawford Jr. “The men and women of WWII understood what freedom meant to us and abroad. As we enter the holiday season, this hits home again for those families that still have love ones serving in harms way.”
   VFW Post Commander Mike Cutini echoed similar sentiments along with the “Pledge of Allegiance” and a brief history of the attack. “That ‘Day of Infamy’ still serves as a constant reminder to maintain our military strength and honor our veterans. The attack also reminds Americans that freedom is never free,” said Cutini.
   Eight battleships were damaged, with five sunk. Three light cruisers, three destroyers and three smaller vessels were lost along with 188 aircraft and more than 3000 military and civilian personnel were killed or wounded. The attack marked Japan’s entry into WWII with Germany and Italy and of the U.S. on the Allied side.
   “The spirit of the men that died on the battleships USS Helena, Utah, Raleigh, California, Nevada, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and other ships, aircraft and military installations, still lives in our shipmates today,” emphasized a Navy Veteran at the ceremony.
   VFW Post Color Guard Captain Bernie Brice led his rifle squad in a “Salute to the Fallen” and signaled the line to fire their weapons in a symbolic 21-gun salute. Emits the crackle of gunfire, Post Bugler Mike Coffman sounded the haunting and lingering notes of Taps that sent chills of emotion through the crowd. “It gave me a chill just like when we first heard the dispatch of that now famous message ‘Air raid, Pearl Harbor -- this is no drill’ in 1941, said a senior Island resident.Mike CoffmanVFW Post Chaplain Mike Rogan opened the ceremony with prayers for those who served, including the men and women overseas today and victims of terrorism. He also drew attention to the picture of the USS Arizona Memorial and a poem printed in the ceremony brochure that summed up the feelings of many. “While the storm clouds gather across the sea, let us swear allegiance to land that’s free; Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.” Rogan also reminded everyone that as a strong and free nation we are often asked by other countries to help freedom grow abroad and then closed the ceremony leading the crowd in “God Bless America.”