Dec. 7, 2016, is the 75th anniversary of Imperial Japan’s attack on Oahu that launched the United States into World War II. Rear Adm. John Fuller speaks to nearly two hundred veterans of that war, including several dozen Pearl Harbor survivors, at the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at Kilo Pier on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial. Here is his message to survivors and other veterans:
By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific
To our most-honored guests – Pearl Harbor survivors and other World War II veterans – thank you for honoring us with your participation in today’s remembrance ceremony.
We are holding today’s events for you. Our objective and theme is: “Honoring the past, Inspiring the future.”
We remember your lost shipmates.
We salute your service and your families’ service.
We offer our most heartfelt thanks – for all you sacrificed and suffered.
Most of you veterans were teenagers or in your early twenties – and away from home for the first time.
Back home, your families longed to hear the news about the attack. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, loved ones – all desperate to know the fate of their boys.
Meanwhile, you – the Pearl Harbor survivors – faced the grueling recovery and restoration.
Joined by Navy divers, civilian shipyard workers and citizens of Hawaii you responded, you rebuilt and you resurrected Pearl Harbor and the Pacific Fleet.
You felt the shock, the grief and then the need to bring the world back in balance.
In the days after the attack facts and information crawled along but rumors raced at light-speed.
It would take weeks to get detailed news to your families. And in some cases it took months.
People stood in endless lines at Western Union in Honolulu. On the mainland, families waited at home and wondered.
Some mothers and fathers received the worst-possible news – the news they dreaded.
Family is our most precious institution and most precious possession.
Yet in war, innocent families are always victims.
Historian Ken Burns chronicled the Second World War – both in Europe and here in the Pacific. He called that war “the greatest cataclysm in history.”
It “grew out of ancient and ordinary human emotions – anger and arrogance and bigotry, victimhood and the lust for power. And it ended because other human qualities – courage and perseverance and selflessness, faith, leadership and the hunger for freedom – combined … to change the course of human events.”
Those who served in World War II, you earned the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today. You delivered that legacy with your toughness and grit and because of your honor, courage and commitment.
Those of you who served in World War II ushered in the current era of peace and prosperity that we have enjoyed for decades – with your blood, sweat and tears.
You re-created a world dedicated to order, justice and stability.
You preserved freedom.
You built reconciliation.
You created greater equality and civil rights.
And you earned our commitment to forever “Remember Pearl Harbor.”
Your lives changed on the morning of December 7, 1941.
After that day you would change the world forever.
As a humble beneficiary, I simply want to offer a sincere and heartfelt – thank you.