Release Date: 12/3/2014
By Brandon Bosworth, Assistant Editor, Ho'okele
PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- Four Sailors who were serving on the USS Arizona during the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor returned and visited the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham (JBPHH) Dec. 2.
Upon arrival, survivors John Anderson, Louis Conter, Donald Stratton, and Lauren Bruner were piped aboard and saluted by an honor guard of service members from several branches of the armed services while the Pacific Fleet Band played patriotic music.
Lt. Cmdr. Alex Torres, assigned to JBPHH, was the lead coordinator for the ceremony. It was his second time serving in this capacity.
"I was in charge last year and was asked to do it again this year," he said. "I feel very privileged."
Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Leszek Romero, also assigned to JBPHH, was the one to actually pipe the Arizona survivors aboard.
"This is an amazing honor," he said. "These men are definitely part of one of the greatest generations."
Romero, a native of Honduras, joined the U.S. Navy Sept. 11, 2001 and credits men like the ones being honored for inspiring him to enlist.
After the arrival ceremony, the four veterans participated in a press conference. They spoke of their experiences and answered questions from the audience. Many people said they were impressed that four men in their 90s could make such a long, exhausting trip, to which Stratton simply replied, "Everybody has to be someplace."
This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is also be the final year the USS Arizona Reunion Association will hold an official reunion. On Dec. 7, the survivors will mark the occasion by holding a ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial when they will pour a "final toast" to their shipmates.
The four survivors said they were confident that they would have another reunion in the future, official or not.
"I don't think this will be our last one," said Conter. "We still have some time to go."