Pearl Harbor service memorializes veterans

  • Published
  • By Jennifer Emmons
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
There are countless personal stories that have emerged from that fateful day of Dec. 7, 1941 - the day Pearl Harbor and surrounding islands were attacked, bringing America into World War II - but the message that connects all the personal and emotional stories is that freedom doesn't come without a cost.

"Freedom isn't free," The Rev. Dr. Roy Elmore said Dec. 7 during the 65th anniversary memorial service of the attack. The service was held at St. Paul's United Methodist Church, Albuquerque. Hosting the memorial event was the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, New Mexico Chapter One. The Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors Inc. were also present to memorialize their parents and loved ones who were at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

"Freedom isn't free and our hats are off to you (the veterans) for your service - and we have servicemen and women overseas right now fighting for that same freedom," Rev. Elmore said. "We are here to remember that those present at Pearl Harbor, and all those that served during World War II, sacrificed so much to ensure our freedom and that freedom isn't free."

About 60 people gathered at the church Dec. 7 to hear the reverend give a memorable sermon commemorating and remembering all those living and those that have passed who served at Pearl Harbor during the attack.

Ray Baker, president of the PHSA, said that it's hard to believe that 65 years have passed since the attack.

"Can you remember where you were 65 years ago?" Mr. Baker said. "We, the survivors, remember exactly where we were and what we were doing on this day 65 years ago."

As time goes on, he said, the present and future generations tend to forget and it's up to the sons and daughters of survivors to carry on the memory.

Karla Barela, national vice president of the SDPHS, said her organization will carry on the message and memory of the single event that pushed America into the second world war.

Mrs. Barela's father, Gerald Wheaton, was on the last ship that made it out of Pearl Harbor, the USS Phoenix.

"She was known as the Lucky Lady," Mrs. Barela said. "She was commissioned during the entire war, including during the Battle of Leyte, through 1945."

Mr. Wheaton, who passed away in April 2005, was a 21-year-old seaman 1st class at the time of the attack. He was supposed to be discharged on his 21st birthday, Nov. 8, 1941, but he was put on a retainer list and was stationed aboard the USS Phoenix, placing him in the middle of the attack 65 years ago.

During the memorial service, a roll call of 14 veterans who have recently passed away was read, as a bell was rung in their honor.

Stan White, who served as president of the PHSA for 11 years, also spoke at the service.

"My heart is full of love and gratitude for those in attendance today and for all the survivors, those living and those who have passed," Mr. White said, who is a double Purple Heart honoree. Mr. White, who was also with the Army Rangers, served in Normandy, France, on D-Day and is a Korean War veteran.

"In all the conflicts the U.S. has been involved in - including World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam - there are stories that are filled with human relationships," Rev. Elmore said. "We need to remember the past and avoid making the mistakes of the past. We need to know and remember the past in order to live monumentally and to the survivors, tell your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren your stories and the history of that fateful day to help them to help future generations, and to help them live monumentally."

Mrs. Barela, who came to tears when her father's name was read during roll call, said that all members of PHSA and the SDPHS bring baby gifts to place under the Christmas tree at St. Paul's Methodist Church, which has been the location of the service for the past 12 years.

"It's an act of reinvesting in the living," Mrs. Barela said. "We all bring a baby gift to also honor those new to the world, to those who will experience the freedom that so many died and fought for."

The veterans belonging to the PHSA New Mexico Chapter One, who have passed on since January 2000 are: William Buettner, Roland Burr, Donald Clingenpeel, Frank Feery, Amos Griffith, Millard Hayes, Samuel Lipton, Lyle Main, Marcos Martinez, Fred McMurprey, Homer Richards, William C. Sanford, Jim Wenger, and Gerald (Gerry) Wheaton.