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From left to right: PO1 Patrick Pean; PO1 Shellyann Stephens; PO1 Julio Castro; PO1 Antar Abdullah

Why Commemorate Pearl Harbor?

Editor’s note: Pearl Harbor Day is a day of remembrance during which we often hear from historians, veterans and Navy leadership about the importance of honoring our past and how this day of infamy inspires our future. But what do today’s Sailors, the young women and men wearing the cloth of the nation, ready to go in harm’s way, think? What does Pearl Harbor mean to them? In their own words, four Sailors shared their unique answers during a commemoration ceremony at the Pentagon on December 6, 2016. We thought their remarks were important and wanted to share them here.

From left to right: PO1 Patrick Pean; PO1 Shellyann Stephens; PO1 Julio Castro; PO1 Antar Abdullah
From left to right: PO1 Patrick Pean; PO1 Shellyann Stephens; PO1 Julio Castro; PO1 Antar Abdullah

 

Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Castro

“Pearl Harbor isn’t just a day to remember and honor the past. It’s a reminder of why Navy heritage is deliberately passed into the hands of the next generation.”

In the Navy there are two ceremonies that we hold annually and have become traditions. In October, we observe the Navy’s birthday to celebrate its establishment by the Continental

 View of Pearl Harbor looking southwesterly from the hills to the northward. Taken during the Japanese raid, with anti-aircraft shell bursts overhead. Large column of smoke in lower center is from USS Arizona (BB-39). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.
View of Pearl Harbor looking southwesterly from the hills to the northward. Taken during the Japanese raid, with anti-aircraft shell bursts overhead. Large column of smoke in lower center is from USS Arizona (BB-39). Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

Congress on October 13, 1775, and in June, we pause to acknowledge a moment in modern history where our predecessors proved to the nation that its faith and trust in our Navy was and still is worthwhile at the Battle of Midway. But this year, being the 75th anniversary, it’s appropriate to add a day of ceremony to our schedules. We should gather to reflect on the significance of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and those who served during this crucial time for our nation. We should honor the hero’s and veterans of Pearl Harbor and World War II who sacrificed, who paved the way for our Navy to evolve into the remarkable force of Sea Power that I serve in today.

But Pearl Harbor isn’t just a day to remember and honor the past. It’s a reminder of why Navy heritage is deliberately passed into the hands of the next generation. Pearl Harbor was an attack… our shipmates were caught by surprise in the wee hours of the morning. This reason, this attack, this day gives credence to the training we do today. Pearl Harbor answers the “why” in how we train to stand the watch. It teaches Sailors of today the importance of standing ready to answer the call. We do more than remember this day, we study it, we learn from it and we are stronger TODAY because of this day 75 years ago. It’s in that growth that we truly honor our Pearl Harbor shipmates.

161207-N-AI605-128 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 7, 2016) Sailors assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) prepare for the arrival of the official party during the 75th Commemoration Event of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Oahu at JBPHH.
161207-N-AI605-128 PEARL HARBOR (Dec. 7, 2016) Sailors assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) prepare for the arrival of the official party during the 75th Commemoration Event of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Oahu at JBPHH.

Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Pean

“…it reminds me of the oath I took to defend the United States …”

December 7, 1941, the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack, was one of the most profound and defining moments in American history. That morning showed that even in the most difficult moments, and in the face of adversity, American Sailors would show their resilience. That’s the Navy I joined. That’s what I wanted to be a part of. I’m glad to commemorate today because it reminds me of the oath I took to defend the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That oath became very real 75 years ago.

Petty Officer 1st Class Shellyann Stephens

“I think more attention should be placed on remembering the response. “

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Signing the Declaration of War against Japan December 8, 1941. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Signing the Declaration of
War against Japan
December 8, 1941. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

Remembering the attack is important, and something we should do as Sailors and as a nation. But I think more attention should be placed on remembering the response. President Roosevelt wasted no time in addressing Congress and the nation, calling December 7, 1941 a date that would live in infamy. On December 8, 1941, as our ships in Pearl Harbor still steamed with the bruises from the attack,  President Roosevelt signed the Declaration of War against Japan. Thousands of Americans pledged to sign up for the Armed Forces within days of the attack. “Remember Pearl Harbor!” became the rallying cry of the war. As a Navy we showed the world our grit. It’s that sentiment, established after the attack and refined throughout World War II that has led to the toughness, accountability, integrity and initiative I’m taught as a Sailor in today’s Navy.

Petty Officer 1st Class Antar Abdullah

“…the image of a sunken USS Arizona symbolizes the day the United States’ safety and security no longer stood behind two oceans. “

75 years later, “Pearl Harbor” still reverberates throughout history. It’s a mainstay in our culture of service. For me, the image of a sunken USS Arizona symbolizes the day the United States’ safety and security no longer stood behind two oceans. Many conflicts have arisen since, but through our remembrance, we are reminded to:

“Stay Alert”

“Stay Engaged”

“Stay Prepared”

Pearl Harbor and our Navy rose from the ashes of this catastrophic attack and evolved into the world wide force it is today. That image, that’s what Pearl Harbor means to me.

161206-N-ES994-008 WASHINGTON (Dec. 6, 2016) PO1 Antar Abdullah describes the historical aftermath of the Pearl Harbor Attack during a remembrance ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The event was hosted by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) and was held in the Pentagon’s auditorium. Naval History and heritage Command (NHHC) provided the bell from USS Vestal for display during the commemoration. Vestal was among the ship’s damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Elliott Fabrizio/Released)
161206-N-ES994-008 WASHINGTON (Dec. 6, 2016) PO1 Antar Abdullah describes the historical aftermath of the Pearl Harbor Attack during a remembrance ceremony for the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The event was hosted by the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) and was held in the Pentagon’s auditorium. Naval History and heritage Command (NHHC) provided the bell from USS Vestal for display during the commemoration. Vestal was among the ship’s damaged during the Pearl Harbor attack. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Petty Officer Elliott Fabrizio/Released)

Want to find more about the attack on Pearl Harbor? Click here.