West Haven honors veterans during 77th anniversary of Pearl Harbor ceremony
We’ve reached a point in time where there no longer are local Pearl Harbor survivors able to attend the city’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, but on the 77th anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack, those who remain remembered it for them.
The West Haven Veterans Council organized Friday morning’s observance at the William A. Soderman Memorial Flagpole on the Veterans Walk of Honor in Bradley Point Park.
About 75 people attended.
Of the 2,335 military personnel killed when 353 Imperial Japanese aircraft launched from six aircraft carriers bombed the U.S. Navy base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941, 1,177 were killed on board the U.S.S. Arizona.
Overall, the dead included 2,008 Navy men, 109 Marines, 218 army men and 68 civilians
For some who attended, the Pearl Harbor commemoration doesn’t just recognize those who died that day.
It recognizes “the greatest generation — a generation of people who saved this country, and basically saved the world...” said Steve Carney, vice president of the Veterans Council.
“We remember today the men who died at Pearl Harbor” because “without them, basically, none of us would be here right now,” Carney said.
“On this day, we give thanks to all who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9422 Commander Freddy Jackson.
Florence Stoeber, whose late husband, Jack Stoeber, had his ashes scattered in Pearl Harbor after he died on Jan. 16, 2016, at age 97, read the names of the 18 Connecticut servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor.
West Haven Fire Department Lt. William Heffernan rang the department’s chrome bell each time she recited one of the names — including that of Steven Pepe, formerly of Bridgeport, a crew member on the U.S.S. Oklahoma whose remains were finally identified only recently.
For decades, he had been listed as missing, but modern technology made it possible to identify his remains, Stoeber said.
Pepe was buried in early October in the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass.
Louis Esposito, executive assistant to Mayor Nancy Rossi, served as master of ceremonies. Victor M. Borras of Gateway Christian Fellowship gave the opening and closing prayers, West Haven High School sophomore Nora E. Mullins sang the national anthem and retired West Shore Fire Department Lt. Kevin McKeon played taps on his bugle.
The Stoebers’ 5-year-old grandson, Matthew McCann, lead the Pledge of Allegiance.
Rossi was unable to attend, but sent her condolences to the relatives of those who died and said in a written statement, “If we do not take the time to remember, we risk a sense of disconnection” from our history.
Other speakers included state Reps. Charles Ferraro, R-West Haven, and Dorinda Borer, D-West Haven, and Ben Florsheim, aide to U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
“To forget what took place on Dec. 7, 1941,” would be a grave error, said Ferraro, echoing Rossi.
“Many of you who are my age learned about Pearl Harbor from our parents,” but now “it’s up to us,” said Borer.
Florsheim called it “a really remarkable thing to see a city come together ... to remember this day.”