JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of local veterans gathered Tuesday to pay their respects to those lost in the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.
Hundreds of Japanese aircraft damaged or destroyed 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships.
Eight decades later, local veterans continue to pay respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“To me this is one of the most important days that we honor the fallen,” said retired Lt. Cmdr. Lena Null Wood, secretary and treasurer for Fleet Reserve Association Branch 290. “The day that the whole world stood still.”
It was Dec. 7, 1941, when the surprise raid by the Japanese Empire killed 2,004 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 218 Army soldiers and 68 civilians.
The attack also injured another 1,100 people on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.
Navy veteran Leon Austin, 93, said he’ll never forget that day that brought the U.S. into World War II.
“I was 13 years old and shortly thereafter my older three brothers were drafted into the Army,” said Austin, who served 30 years in the Navy. I was mad and I wanted to help this country get through this devastation.”
The Fleet Reserve Association Branch 290 ceremony at the lodge off Mayport Road began with prayer and an honorary gun salute. The ceremony has been a tradition since 1964.
Veterans in attendance each laid a flower to represent those lives lost that fateful day.
“History is incredibly important. If we do not remember our history, the good the bad and the ugly, then we have lost a piece of ourselves,” said Navy veteran Tommy Stephens, president of Fleet Reserve Association Branch 290. “It has to be talked about, passed on.”