By MSG Jennifer Yancey, 3rd ID Public AffairsDecember 8, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. General George Washington said: "The willingness of which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation."
Disabled American Veterans, Chapter #46, hosted a Pearl Harbor Day Ceremony Dec. 4 at the American Legion in Hinesville, to not only reflect on the events of that day, but to encourage today's citizens and veterans to honor members of "the Greatest Generation" who answered the call.
The Greatest Generation found itself on the frontlines in response to what President Franklin D. Roosevelt described as a day that will live in infamy.
At 7:55 on a tranquil Sunday morning - Dec. 7, 1941 - without warning, a Japanese force of 353 dive bombers and torpedo planes attacked U.S. Naval forces in Oahu, HI. The attack left 2,400 service members dead and more than 1,200 wounded. More than 320 aircraft were damaged, their eight battleships either damaged, or sunk.
As a result, the US transitioned from that of a peaceful nation to one unexpectedly thrust into war.
"On Dec. 7, we were sadly awakened to the new reality among us," said Col. Kevin W. Milton, Fort Stewart garrison commander and event guest speaker. "We were surprised by an unknown enemy we didn't know we had."
Following the attacks, the US and its citizens sought a way to react to this newfound threat with a sudden uncertainty and a "largely-untested" Navy.
"The Navy proved their mettle as a service in the years following 1941," Col. Milton said, adding, "No one controls the seas like our Navy."
Additionally, scores of people stood for hours in long lines to join the military.
"We were a nation that was challenged," he said, "and a nation that rose to the challenge."
Colonel Milton recalled the other moment when this nation was again surprised by an unknown enemy: Sept. 11, 2001.
For a second time, this nation's livelihood was threatened and sense of security shattered by an unknown enemy. Again the US, its citizens and its military answered the call.
"We learned a lesson from the Greatest Generation on how to respond," he said.
Colonel Milton thanked the veterans for all they do for the Soldiers. He also stressed to those in attendance that should they meet a member of the Greatest Generation, to stop and pay tribute.
If you come across a World War II veteran, he said, "thank them for their service, ask them to tell you a story, then sit down and be quiet."
That message hit home for some Bradwell Institute JROTC cadets.
"I learned a lot (during the ceremony)," said JROTC Cadet Lt. Col. Kiara Johns, a senior at Bradwell Institute. "I'm leaving with a lot more information than I came with."
Johns, a 17-year-old Hinesville native, plans to join the Army after college and become a nurse. She cited her grandfather as inspiration. "He really encouraged me," she said of the Vietnam veteran.
Hinesville Mayor James Thomas Jr., an Army veteran, emphasized the importance of service.
"Our nation is our treasure," he said.
Those wishing to serve, however, should remember that great generation that forged their path.
"The cadets following (in their footsteps)," said Mayor Thomas, "should realize they live in the best nation in the world."