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Community marks Pearl Harbor Day in ceremony

Under gray skies in West Seneca on Monday, dozens of veterans and other citizens paid tribute to a dark day in American history 74 years ago.

National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day outside West Seneca Post 735, American Legion, featured prayers, an address from State Sen. Patrick M. Gallivan, R-Elma, the playing of taps, a 21-gun salute and the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Walter E. Harrison, a 90-year-old Army veteran originally from East Orange, N.J., played taps on the bugle during the ceremony.

“This is a very important ceremony to educate not only the children, but some of the adults,” Harrison said afterward.

Monday’s event commemorated the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on the American fleet at the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Japanese attack, which killed 2,390 Americans and wounded 1,178, drew the United States into World War II.

Dec. 7 became known as “a date which will live in infamy” after President Franklin D. Roosevelt called it that in a speech he gave to Congress the following day.

Monday marked the 28th year the post has held a ceremony in remembrance of the attack. Representatives of the post attended with members of Post 8113, Veterans of Foreign Wars; Harvey D. Morin Post 2940, VFW; Navy Seabee Veterans of America, Island X-5; Post 8113, AMVETS; Marine Corps League Detachment 239 and the Army 82nd Airborne Division Association.

“We’re a bunch of dedicated service members and we like to honor one another whenever we have the opportunity,” said Harold C. Wohlfeil, past commander of Post 735, who served as the event’s emcee. He said organizers want to continue to honor “the Greatest Generation.”

“We must always honor their memory, and that’s why we do this,” said Post 735 member James E. Manley, who said that there are about 2,500 Pearl Harbor survivors remaining in the United States. The post’s last surviving member who was at Pearl Harbor during the attack died in March 2014. Earl J. Wickett, was a 22-year-old Army private on the morning of the attack.