“I think young people are in danger of forgetting.”
That’s the message retired Veteran Colonel Michael Hodge gave to a crowd of dozens gathered at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum in Tyler Saturday in remembrance of the 79th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On December 7, 1941, over 2,400 military members and civilians were killed during a Japanese air strike.
The memorial event, sponsored by Community Assisting Military Personnel and Veterans, or CAMP V, began with patriotic choral singing by the East Texas Men in Harmony and opened with the posting of the flags by the Tyler Civil Air Patrol’s U.S. Air Force Auxiliary and an invocation.
Dona Cassel, retired teacher and military poet, led the crowd in a poem as well as giving the history of the USS Arizona, a ship destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Hodge, the special speaker for the event, recounted the history of the USS New Orleans, one of the other ships destroyed in the attack. He encouraged young people to look into service opportunities in the military and para-military groups.
But more than anything, the morning was dedicated to reminiscing about old stories and honoring those that were lost.
“I don’t know when, I don’t know where, but it’s going to happen again, and we need to be ready,” Historic Aviation Museum Vice President Louis Thomas said.
Thomas served four years in the United States Air Force, and afterward served 25 years in the CIA.
“This is such an important part of our history – one of the most significant things from the time our county was born until 1941 when it happened,” Thomas said. “But this was the first thing that made the people of the United States wake up. It caused us to grow, it caused us to expand, and to educate ourselves better and to be better citizens. It was a monumental thing that said we have to do better.”
For Hodge, he said he simply doesn’t want to see a weak generation forget what made America the strong, vibrant country it is — the military.
“Our parents were part of the Greatest Generation, I was born before the boomers, so there’s a little bit of that still in me,” Hodge said.
Ryan Tew, a committee member of CAMP V, said that her drive to honor veterans was fueled by what she saw in the health care industry.
“I work in the senior health care industry,” Tew said. “There’s a lot of resources available to them that veterans don’t know when it comes to their healthcare. When I first got into that industry, it really put me into the veteran community, so I’ve been supportive of that for the last 10 years.”
CAMP V offers help in finding and collecting benefits for veterans in need. Ryan said for her, the battle to not only remember veterans, but to help them, is personal.
“I have multiple family members that are active military and veterans, in every branch of service,” Tew said. “I have family members that did fight through that time, so it’s just something important to me to support anything and everything when it comes to the military.”
The Historic Aviation Memorial Museum allows free admittance to veterans. Regular attendance by the public costs $12.