'It's up to us to keep that story going,' son of Pearl Harbor survivor says
U.S. Navy sailors, military veterans and civilians gathered Friday at Great Lakes Naval Station near North Chicago for a solemn ceremony commemorating the 77th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The large crowd included the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of several now-deceased Pearl Harbor survivors from northern Illinois along with one descendant of a sailor killed in the attack, which prompted the U.S. to enter World War II in December 1941.
Fewer and fewer Pearl Harbor survivors remain alive each anniversary. There are no more in the Chicago area.
"The living history is leaving us," said Mundelein resident Eric "Rick" Miller, one of the organizers of Friday's event and the son of a now-deceased Pearl Harbor survivor. "Now that the survivors are gone, it's up to us to keep that story going."
Navy Capt. Ray Leung, the commanding officer at Great Lakes, was among the speakers who addressed the crowd inside the base's Ross Theater. He talked about the military strategy behind the Japanese attacks and recited the names of many of the 21 ships that were damaged or sunk that morning -- including the U.S.S. Arizona, which was destroyed by armor-piercing bombs that killed nearly 1,200 personnel.
More than 2,400 Americans died during the attack.
But Leung also spoke of the great American response to the attack, including the dramatic expansion of Great Lakes as a Navy training center.
It was, Leung said, "a turning point in world history" that continues to influence the world today.
Afterward, Navy personnel fired a three-volley rifle salute to the dead. A sailor gave the spent shells to relatives of the late Pearl Harbor survivors.
Freeport resident Pat Clary's father, Dean Garrett, was a corpsman at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Pearl Harbor during the attack. Garrett died in 2013, but Clary was at Great Lakes on Friday for the ceremony.
"I'm just here to honor all the guys," she said. "This is really for them."
Seaman Devin DeFrieze of Virginia was among the sailors who observed the ceremony. He said it's important to reflect on the sacrifices of the men and women who died at Pearl Harbor.
"We need to keep commemorating them so we don't forget what they did," DeFrieze said.