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Naval District Washington (NDW) observed Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day with a wreath laying ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., Dec. 7. Guests of the event included Pearl Harbor survivors retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Albert Grasselli and retired Chief Sonar Tech Howard Snell.

Guest speaker Louella Large, national president of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, delivered comments on the impact of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the importance of its remembrance today.

“Pearl Harbor will always hold a prominent place in the history of the United States, not only for the destruction and death that triggered our entry into World War II, but as a shining example of American heroism and courage in the face of adversity,” said Large. “Most of those who died that day were just young boys. These young men defended their country. On the night of December 7, 1941, the first night of the blackout and curfew that lasted almost three years, civilians saw shells flashing like sheet lightning and the dull, red glow of battleships reflected onto the night sky. At midnight, they saw a rare lunar rainbow, which native Hawaiians believe symbolizes an imminent victory.”

The crisp air and gray sky in Washington, D.C., stood in stark contrast to the sunny morning 72 years ago when service members stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, fell victim to a surprise attack by Japanese forces in the morning hours of Dec. 7, 1941. The U.S. pacific fleet was nearly destroyed in the fight, with 18 U.S. ships damaged or sunk. American Sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen fought bravely against two waves of Japanese attacks, at a cost of 2,402 American service members killed and another 1,247 wounded. The unexpected event ushered the United States in to World War II, and ultimately, on to victory.

After an invocation by Capt. Gary Clore, regional chaplain for NDW, Large spoke about the veterans of Pearl Harbor and their memory as their ranks begin to thin with time.

“[The veterans’] families have witnessed the results of that day through their parents’ eyes, and carry the survivors’ memories as their legacy,” said Large. “The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association disbanded in December, 2010, due to the ages of the survivors, their health, and the fact they were unable to have officers hold state and national levels any longer. At its peak they had 29,000 survivors that met regularly, shared their stories of the war, and paid tribute to their comrades who perished on December 7, 1941, and those who have passed away since that day. The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association started on December 7, 1958, by 11 men who met to remember and honor their friends from Pearl, and locate those who were still alive in order to unite them into one association with a common bond. The sons and daughters of the Pearl Harbor survivors have taken up that baton now, and are carrying on. We are over 4,000 strong and still growing with new members every month; sad to say, that our survivors numbers are dwindling at a faster pace. We will keep alive their memory, tell their stories, and pay tribute to them for generations to come. All Americans should say thank you to those of the ‘greatest generation’ and every man and woman in uniform for their service to their country for fighting for our freedom and preserving our way of life.”

The event included a full color guard provided by the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard, and the U.S. Navy band played to the crowd before offering a solemn rendition of taps when Rear Adm. Markham Rich, commandant, Naval District Washington and Large laid a wreath in honor of Pearl Harbor veterans.

For more photos of the NDW Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day wreath laying, visit www.facebook.com/NavDistWash.