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Whidbey remembers Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor survivor Cecil Calavan bows his head in prayer following a wreath-laying to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. - Kathy Reed / The Record
Pearl Harbor survivor Cecil Calavan bows his head in prayer following a wreath-laying to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
— image credit: Kathy Reed / The Record

Gray skies were but a reflection of the somber mood at a Pearl Harbor Remembrance ceremony at Crescent Harbor Marina on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island’s Seaplane Base.

The traditional remembrance service was put together by Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129 and included community members, local Pearl Harbor survivors and active duty personnel. Although the weather didn’t cooperate, the rain didn’t dampen the emotional spirit of the message that has lived on since that infamous day.

“Freedom is the price and each generation pays its due,” said Cmdr. Lew Callaway, Executive Officer of VAQ-129.

“Pearl Harbor proved America had the will to win,” he continued. “Men raced into battle even when their ship was sinking.”

Callaway said those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Pearl Harbor and those who fought in its wake went on to show America was a force to be reckoned with and proved the truth of democracy.

“Our military men and women are the last who want to go to war, but they will sacrifice all when called upon,” he said.

“On this 71st anniversary, we pause to honor and pay tribute to the thousands who gave their lives at Pearl Harbor,” President of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Chapter 5, Jim Stansell, said. “But honor and remembrance seems inadequate; we can’t give back what was lost.”

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Stansell was a Seaman 2nd Class aboard the USS Hull, a destroyer which had just returned from a mission at sea and was tied up to the USS Dobbin to get power. Stansell, then 17 years old, heard they were under attack as he was preparing to go to church and rushed topside, only to see a Japanese plane so close he could see the pilot’s face. The Dobbin cut the Hull off from power so its power guns were useless.

Virtually helpless, all the crew of the Hull could do was watch the attack. Stansell saw the USS Arizona blow up; he saw the USS Utah roll over; and the USS Nevada sink and run aground.

“A great America and a great Navy in many cases were built around the holocaust of that day,” Stansell said. “We do remember those lost with our thoughts and our prayers, and I can only say ‘God Bless.’”

The remarks were followed by a traditional wreath-laying in Crescent Harbor. Gayle Vyskocil, widow of Pearl Harbor survivor Lt. Cmdr. James Vyskocil, tossed the evergreen wreath into the water. Other survivors tossed in white carnations as the wind whipped around them.

A 21-gun-salute and the playing of “Taps” brought the quiet ceremony to an end.

 

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