Villagers reflect on the terror of Pearl Harbor and honor its heroes

Seventy-six years after the Battle of Pearl Harbor the battleship Arizona remains a submerged tomb for 1,177 sailors. 

“Ever since that fateful ‘Day of Infamy,’ approximately one quart of the 500,000 gallons of fuel on board that did not explode from that horrifying blast, slowly seeps into the bay.  These are the ‘black tears’ of the Arizona – a tangible connection to those who lie below. She continues to weep for her dead sailors.”

The horrors of Dec. 7, 1941 as well as the gallantry of those who fought and died that day were remembered and praised during the Villages’ Pearl Harbor Day Ceremony, Thursday, at the Veterans Memorial Park (VMP) and by the keynote presentation of Capt. Jerry Sexsmith, U.S. Navy retired.

Capt. Jerry Sexsmith spoke at the Pearl Harbor ceremony.

“There are only a few days in America’s history that are burned into our national consciousness as much as that early, quiet morning when the Japanese attacked, without warning or provocation,” Sexsmith continued.  (By the end of the war) “the U.S. Navy sank every one of the ships that were in that Japanese task force.”

The commemoration also featured the presentation of service flags by representatives of the military branches and local military organizations; as well as the ‘presentation of wreath’ at the base of the Park’s obelisk monument and ‘volley and taps’ by the VMP Honor Guard.

Pam Jones and Cindy Graham sang at the ceremony.

Musical selections were sung by Pam Jones and Cindy Graham, both of Congressman Daniel Webster’s office, and Kevin Selfridge (the Sounds of Scotland) who played the bagpipes.

VMP Chaplain Tom Miller also introduced the morning’s special guests: World War II veterans, and then Suzanne Jewett, a new resident of Osceola Hills, whose father Edward Strobar was a sailor on the USS Pennsylvania – one of the battleships docked near the Arizona.

A wreath was laid at the event.

“He was on-deck with his fellow musicians preparing for a performance when Japanese planes began their attack.  They flew so close that my father could see their faces,” she said.  “The band members immediately took their battle stations and started helping the many injured.” 

One of approximately 75 watching the solemn ceremony was Harold Sievers, a Korean War veteran and one of the founders of the VMP.

“I remember hearing the news of Pearl Harbor as if it was yesterday.  I was eight-years-old and had just came home from Sunday school, he recalled. “I feel very good that people have come together today. They haven’t forgotten.”