Day of re­mem­brance

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - DAVID WAL­LACE/REPUB­LIC

Ed­ward Miklav­cic, left, and Jack Holder salute at a Pearl Har­bor event in Phoenix.

Jack Holder and his air­craft crew had just be­gun roll call when they heard a deaf­en­ing ex­plo­sion.

A bomb had just fallen on the hangar next to theirs. It was the be­gin­ning of Ja­pan’s at­tack on Pearl Har­bor.

Then-Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt would call the day of the at­tack, Dec. 7, 1941, a date that would live in in­famy.

Ari­zona vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies gath­ered at Wes­ley Bolin Plaza near the Ari­zona state Capi­tol on Fri­day morn­ing — 77 years later — to ob­serve the event that would make the United States join the Al­lied Forces in World War II.

Dozens of peo­ple laid wreaths by the an­chor of the USS Ari­zona as Wanda Wright, direc­tor of Ari­zona Depart­ment

“A sud­den sad­ness fell over me — a sad­ness I’d only felt at fu­ner­als of friends and fam­ily.” Com­man­der Justin Collins Key­note speaker

of Vet­er­ans’ Ser­vices, an­nounced the mil­i­tary and vet­eran or­ga­ni­za­tions they rep­re­sented.

‘True Amer­i­can he­roes’

Gov. Doug Ducey took to the podium and thanked the vet­er­ans be­fore him for ev­ery­thing they had done.

“I just want to say what an honor it is for me to be among all these he­roes on this beau­ti­ful Ari­zona day and how thank­ful I am for your sac­ri­fice and ser­vice to our na­tion,” said to the crowd.

Ducey spoke of how the courage and met­tle of Amer­ica’s soldiers helped make one of coun­try’s bleak­est days a lit­tle brighter.

“To­day, it is with great hu­mil­ity, that we gather at the an­chor of the bat­tle­ship USS Ari­zona to re­mem­ber each of these lives that were taken from us,” Ducey said. “Dec. 7th, 1941, is among his­tory’s dark­est mo­ments. But to­day, we re­mem­ber that amid all the death, de­struc­tion and chaos, emerged some of the most in­cred­i­ble demon­stra­tions of brav­ery, hero­ism and sac­ri­fice.”

Among the vet­er­ans Ducey thanked was Archie Kelly, who was as­signed to the USS West Vir­ginia the day of the at­tack. As the ship was as­sailed with tor­pe­does, Kelly closed the doors on the lower decks to pre­vent the ship from flood­ing. Ducey said Kelly’s ac­tions pre­vented the ship from cap­siz­ing.

Ducey also thanked the Pearl Har­bor sur­vivors in at­ten­dance: Jack Holder, Ed Miklav­cic, and Mau­rice Storck — all of whom con­tin­ued the fight in World War II.

“Jack, Ed, Mau­rice, we are hon­ored to have you with us to­day. You and your fel­low ser­vice members are true Amer­i­can he­roes in ev­ery way,” Ducey said. “Words can never fully re­pay the eter­nal debt of grat­i­tude we owe you and ev­ery­one who served at Pearl Har­bor. To­day, Ari­zona says thank you.”

‘1,102 of my ship­mates on board’

Com­man­der Justin Collins of the U.S. Navy was the event’s key­note speaker. Collins said he had a hard time un­der­stand­ing the mag­ni­tude of the 1,102 lives lost when the USS Ari­zona sank until he vis­ited the ship’s me­mo­rial dur­ing a va­ca­tion to Hawaii.

“It was a beau­ti­ful day with a nice sea breeze. We were on va­ca­tion, life was great,” Collins said. “But as stepped onto the me­mo­rial, my mood changed dras­ti­cally. A sud­den sad­ness fell over me — a sad­ness I’d only felt at fu­ner­als of friends and fam­ily.”

Collins said none of his rel­a­tives had served on the Ari­zona, nor did he know any of the sailors who per­ished at Pearl Har­bor. But un­like the five now-de­com­mis­sioned frigates he served on, the Ari­zona’s hull still had a soul.

“Sailors give a ship a soul and make it the most pow­er­ful as­set in the de­fense of this great na­tion,” Collins said. “As I peered down in the hull of the Ari­zona, I wasn’t look­ing at a de­com­mis­sioned ship — some piece of metal act­ing as a reef. It wasn’t like my ships that had been de­com­mis­sioned, be­cause this one still had 1,102 of my ship­mates on board.”

Sur­vivor re­calls the fate­ful day

Holder, who will turn 97 next week, re­called div­ing into a ditch for cover with a crew­mate.

“I’ve been asked many times what my thoughts were at that time. My my most vivid mem­ory I have is, ‘God, please let me die in this ditch.’”

Holder wit­nessed cat­a­strophic dev­as­ta­tion when he left the ditch, with sev­eral ships com­pletely ablaze.

Holder sent his par­ents a post­card telling them he was OK. He’d later learn from his fa­ther that his mother was hys­ter­i­cal dur­ing the 11 days it would take the let­ter to reach them and promised God she would spend the rest of her life work­ing for the church if her son was spared.

“And she did,” Holder said.

Vet­eran Mau­rice Storck of Tuc­son sits next to a photo of vet­eran Marvin Rew­erts, who passed away in Novem­ber.

PHO­TOS BY DAVID WAL­LACE/THE REPUB­LIC

Gerry Berger, vice pres­i­dent of the Ari­zona Vet­er­ans Hall of Fame, stands at Wes­ley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix on Fri­day.

Gov. Doug Ducey shakes hands with vet­er­ans dur­ing a Pearl Har­bor Re­mem­brance Day event.

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