ALPENA - A few dozen residents gathered with members of the local sheriff department, city police officers, firefighters and VFW Post 2496 at Fletcher Street Park on Wednesday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the day Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor.
It was Alpena's second Pearl Harbor memorial service in as many years, a tradition which Post 2496 intends to maintain annually from now on. The ceremony started with an introduction by VFW Post Commander Robert Reynolds, followed by a benediction from Alpena County Veterans Council chaplain George Stevens. Reynolds then introduced Col. Bryan Teff, commanding officer at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center, as the ceremony's guest speaker. Acknowledging the gravity of the occasion, Teff compared the attack on Pearl Harbor to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and discussed the necessity of remembering history in order to preserve its most valuable lessons.
"For too many years, the memory of Dec. 7, 1941, was slipping away. It's tragic to know that it took another catastrophic event to get us thinking about our history," he said. "It's important for Americans to remember our history, the high and the low points. Certainly Pearl Harbor was a low point. We've come a long way as a nation since 1941 ... Without question, our nation has proven to be resilient."
News Photo by Andrew Westrope
Col. Bryan Teff addresses a crowd gathered at Fletcher Street Field behind the Post Office on Wednesday in a memorial service for the victims and survivors of 1941’s Pearl Harbor attacks.
He stressed the importance of teaching younger generations about the need for vigilance. He said it's the only way to preserve a costly legacy.
"You and I pay no finer tribute to those we remember on this day than to ensure that the nation for which they sacrificed remains free and strong enough to preserve its freedoms regardless of what the future holds," he said. "The events of Dec. 7, 1941, are a history lesson worthy of retelling over generations. Ultimately, that's why we're here today."
He concluded by reading a letter from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, addressed to all Pearl Harbor survivors. In it, Panetta makes an appeal for the remembrance not only of the dead but also the living, and for honoring the old guard while passing the torch.
"You are the veterans of that greatest generation. You have lived full lives and witnessed years of great prosperity because of that freedom you helped to secure for America and our allies," Teff read. "I know you take great pride, as I do, that your legacy lives on in today's men and women in uniform, who have borne the burden of a decade of war and are truly this nation's next 'greatest generation.' The 9/11 generation, like you, has stepped forward in your image of service and sacrifice, volunteering for military duty after another sudden and terrible attack on our shores."
In closing, Teff tossed the memorial wreath into the Thunder Bay River as the VFW Post 2496 Honor Guard performed a rifle salute and Richard Raquepaw played Taps.
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693.