VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story honored the lives lost during the attack on Pearl Harbor in a ceremony Tuesday.
Local officials hosted the annual “Pearl Harbor Survivors Remembrance Ceremony” on Dec. 7.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the 1941 attack where more than 3,600 servicemen were wounded or lost their lives. The attack propelled the United States into World War II.
The service at the Joint Expeditionary Base began at 10:55 a.m. Tuesday.
Active duty members from all our military services and members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association were in attendance. The Pearl Harbor memorial was built and dedicated in 1990 by the PHSA Tidewater Chapter 2. It was then followed by an expansion in 2001 that included 184 names of known local survivors of the attack.
Guest speakers for the service included the Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Sailor of the Year Culinary Specialist 1st Class Joi Morrison.
“For the U.S. Navy, I can tell you it was a time when sailors and families were going about their regular day in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and never thought on December 7 that they would experience the tragedy they did. With Pearl Harbor being the bedrock of the Pacific Fleet, part of the Pacific Fleet, it’s important that those who serve never forget what happened that day year in and year out and remember those sacrifices,” said Capt. Michael Witherspoon, who is the commanding officer at JEB Little Creek-Fort Story.
Families of local survivors also came to the ceremony to remember and honor their loved ones who have since passed.
Francine Gagne brought her father, Wilfred, to the event every year until he died in 2016.
“This day is very important historically. It’s important we always remember. we remember the event but the heroism of those who were there that day. Remember those who died and those who were tasked with cleaning up the event after that and moving on with their lives,” she said.
Gagne says her father was 19 at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack and was stationed on the USS Tennessee, which also survived the attack.
Her father went on to serve in the Navy for 35 years and retired as a commander in 1975.
Gagne says her father never really talked about Pearl Harbor when she was growing up.
“When that movie ‘Tora!Tora!Tora!’ came out, he asked my brother and I to go with him to see it. When they asked if any survivors in the audience to come on stage or stand up to be acknowledged, he really hesitated,” she said. “I think it was an event that had such an impact on his life. He never really talked a whole lot about it. I regret now that we never sat down and got that oral history from him and the rest of World War II and total life of service. It’s important to do that. If you have a service member or an older parent, get that oral history.”
Gagne says her father said the Navy was the greatest thing to happen in his life and it gave him a sense of great pride and accomplishment.
While he isn’t here to attend the ceremony, Gagne is proud to continue on the tradition.
“I grew up in the Navy and it’s a very special part of my life too. He was extremely special. He’s my hero. To be able to come and be here with him in his place is very meaningful for me,” she said.