It was a breezy, not too chilly morning at the Ogden River Parkway, fine conditions for the American Legion’s ceremony.
“Last time, we threw the flowers onto the ice because the river was frozen,” State Chaplain for the American Legion Byron Lewis said. “The first year we did it, it was pouring so hard, we looked like drowned rats by the time we finished.”
No matter the weather, members of the American Legion Baker-Merrill Post 9 have been coming out to the Ogden River every year on Dec. 7 to pay respects to the nearly 2,400 people, soldiers and civilians, who lost their lives during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is especially important to Post 9, since its namesake, Ensign Howard Merrill, served on the USS Arizona during the attack and was among those killed. He was the first veteran from Weber County to be killed in World War II and his remains are entombed in the ship.
They held the ceremony on one of the bridges on the river, beginning with a brief history of the event and offering a prayer.
“The men and women stationed on the island of Hawaii were awakened, putting on their uniforms and preparing to start another day of work in paradise. Others who had been on duty at night were waiting for their replacements to arrive so they could get some much-needed sleep. But sleep was not to come and paradise turned into a living and dying hell,” Post 9 Commander John Roods said. “We are here today to honor these men and women who lost their lives and suffered the wounds of war on that fateful day. We renew today our solemn vow that their sacrifices will not be forgotten.”
When the clock struck 11:43 a.m., the time in Utah when the attack started, the American Legion members saluted as a bell was rung and “Taps” played.
“Everything is not always peaceful. It’s important to be prepared,” Lewis said. “History has a habit of repeating itself. We can’t forget, so we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
Lewis said he wishes more of the younger generation acknowledged and remembered that day.
Some of the history books in schools have stopped mentioning it, he said.
“It’s all about the sacrifices that our vets made. We need to keep those memories,” Junior Vice Commander Richard Armstrong said.
The American Legion is one of the country’s largest and oldest veteran service organizations involved in community service, advocacy for veteran issues and education.