Remembering Pearl Harbor; Smyrna monument in the works

 

From left to right, Terry Baker, Mark Eschelweck and Burt Anderson with the Vietnam Vets /Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club salute after a wreath was placed in Lake Como during a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony in Smyrna on Thursday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

SMYRNA — Three years ago, the local chapter of the Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club felt that the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place on Dec. 7 1941, was beginning to fade from memory. So they started a tradition of honoring the soldiers that were killed that day, by meeting on the shore of Smyrna’s Lake Como, offering prayers, firing off a multi-gun salute, playing taps and laying a rose-laden wreath in the water.

“We noticed that the memory of Pearl Harbor was starting to get lost,” said Terry “the caretaker” Baker, an organizer with the motorcycle club. “This was a day that was supposed to ‘live in infamy.’ It brought our nation to its knees, but then brought us right back up out of the ashes. And, we fought a terrible war afterwards. It was a struggle that united this country in a way that maybe we need to get back to. So it’s worth remembering.”

At 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian time (12:48 p.m. local), 76 years ago on Thursday, the violent aerial assault by 353 fighter planes, bombers and torpedo planes began that would leave all eight U.S. battleships in the Hawaiian harbor damaged (four sunk), 188 U.S. aircraft destroyed and 2,403 Americans dead along with an additional 1,178 wounded. To coincide with the actual attack, event organizers laid the wreath in Lake Como at 12:48 p.m. on Thursday.

Although it was a blustery day with temperatures in the low 40s, dozens of veterans, dignitaries and residents showed up — including now retired Delaware National Guard Gen. Frank Vavala and Rep. William Carson, D-Smyrna. Several veteran group chapters’ representatives spoke at the event, offering reflections on the Pearl Harbor attack.

Burt Anderson with the Vietnam Vets/ Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club salutes during the playing of Taps during a Pearl Harbor Day ceremony in Smyrna on Thursday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

“It’s important for us to reach back and remember our history and the folks who sacrificed their lives on this day all those years ago,” said Delaware Veterans Coalition President Dave Skocik. “Many of the soldiers that died that day did so heroically, while trying to protect their ships and shipmates.”

Plans for a monument set

Although starting as a simple annual event, the Pearl Harbor remembrance service is now slated to leave a year-round mark on shores of Lake Como. Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club announced at the event their partnership with the town of Smyrna to raise funds for and construct a small memorial monument commemorating the Pearl Harbor attack to be unveiled by next Dec. 7.

“We approached the town, and they set aside a plot of land for us here to set up a small monument,” said Mr. Baker. “They’re going to help with electricity and whatever else they can do, and we’ll be raising the fund to construct it.”

Mr. Baker said the design is still under wraps, but notes that it’ll be naval themed. Residents interested in donating to the cause can send a check made out to “memorial fund” to the Vietnam Vets/Legacy Vets Motorcycle Clubhouse on 474 Flemings Landing Rd, Townsend, DE 19734.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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