Two Pearl Harbor survivors honored in Aurora
It wasn't too long ago that survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor filled several tables when the Aurora Council of the Navy League of the United States held its annual memorial luncheon.
But each year, the number of veterans in attendance who were stationed in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, has dwindled.
On Monday, Army veteran Everitt Schlegel of Elgin and Navy veteran Joe Triolo of Zion were the only two Pearl Harbor survivors to be recognized at the 47th annual luncheon at Gaslite Manor Banquets.
"There's so few of these men left," said Leonard Wass, who serves on the board of directors for the Aurora Navy League. "We're hanging on to the last vestiges of the memory, and when they're all gone, we'll just remember the day, I guess."
Schlegel, 97, had just enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Hawaii for only a few months at the time of the Japanese attack. He was on stable duty, caring for mules and horses at Schofield Barracks, when he saw the planes with the Rising Sun insignia fly overhead.
"He says that if he had a stone, he would have been able to hit the planes because that's how low they were," said Schlegel's daughter, Beverly Capiga.
Capiga said she has attended the event with her father for the past six years and appreciates that the Navy League and the Rotary Club, which co-hosted the event, take time to recognize the veterans and their memories.
"It makes him feel special," she said. "He's honored to be here. He talks about this for weeks ahead of time, because he really wants to come here. It's important to him."
Triolo was on the USS Tangier, a ship that rescued survivors from the capsized USS Utah during the attack.
Triolo and Schlegel were presented with quilts from the Quilts of Valor Foundation during the luncheon.
Guest speaker Capt. Doug Pfeifle gave a summary of what happened at Pearl Harbor, noting the day started "like any other leisurely and balmy Sunday."
"I cannot imagine the shock and chaos that gripped Pearl Harbor 75 years ago," he said. "As members of the Navy League, the attack is even more significant, since many of you either personally knew our fallen heroes or heard the many stories the survivors passed on."
Navy League member Dick Ebeling said money raised at the event supports the Aurora division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps and the ROTC programs at Mooseheart Academy and East and West Aurora High Schools.
"We keep it going because it's an important event not to forget," he said. "It allows us to support these youth groups and I think that's well worth the effort."
For the past 30 years, the luncheon also has served as a ceremony for the distribution of the Ted Brattin Civic Youth Awards, which recognizes outstanding students ages 13 to 19 from the Fox Valley.
This year's recipients were Yasmin Broy from the Illinois Math and Science Academy; Vanessa Cai and Archit Dhar from Neuqua Valley High School; Benjamin Garcia from Marmion Academy; Brooke Jensen from Yorkville High School; Noelle Kilpatrick from Oswego High School; Natalie McKee from Rosary High School; Nabila Qadri from Naperville North High School; Guadalupe Romualdo from Waubonsee Community College; and Austin Runde from Aurora Central Catholic High School.