To pause and remember the attack on Pearl Harbor 71 years ago, a dedication ceremony was held at the Oklahoma Veterans Memorial in Shawnee Friday morning, where the USS Oklahoma replica anchor on site was dedicated.
Attended by several high-ranking military officers, including two Generals and a Navy commander, the event drew a crowd to Woodland Veterans Park.
U.S. Navy Veteran Tom Schrzan, a member of the Veterans Memorial Committee, said the anchor is a full scale exact replica of the one that was on the Battleship Oklahoma when it was sunk by the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
A total of 429 sailors and Marines on the USS Oklahoma were killed in the Sunday morning attack, Schrzan said, while more than 2,300 died that day.
"To these brave souls, we must say eternal thanks," he said.
U.S. Navy Commander Mark Genualdi also addressed the crowd about the Pearl Harbor attack.
"There's a handful of moments in U.S. history," he said, adding Pearl Harbor is one of those.
As far as the "phenomenal" work done on the Shawnee memorial and park, Genualdi said, "mission accomplished" to those involved.
"It's well done and you should be proud of it," he said.
The commander said he and a group of sailors first visited Shawnee earlier in the week and spent time sharing stories with veterans. As he spoke about the Pearl Harbor attack, he said, "The U.S. got hit in the mouth that early Sunday morning."
"That anchor stands for a lot — 429 sailors and Marines on the Oklahoma that day," he said, calling Pearl Harbor "one of the darkest hours in our nation's history."
But that, and the battles that followed, make him think of the sacrifice, honor and courage of those who bravely fought, he said.
"I am proud to wear the same uniform," he said. "Let us never forget."
Mayor Wes Mainord spoke about the memorial and its construction with more than $300,000 in citizen-raised funds.
Mainord recognized Randy Gilbert of Gilbert Trucking Co., for hauling the replica anchor from Minnesota to its new home in Shawnee. Also honored, but not present, was Dan Climer for securing the iron bell at the memorial used during veterans ceremonies.
The mayor also recognized retired Brig. Gen. Pete Costilow, who served a key liaison in making sure the memorial received two 105mm Howitzers now on display at the memorial. Also honored for the Howitzer effort was Major General Myles Deering, commander of the Oklahoma Army and National Guard.
Deering, who spoke to the crowd, said he received too much credit for his role and praised the soldiers. Deering said he's privileged to be in command at a great time in history, as those in the military have received more recognition than ever before.
Page 2 of 2 - He also took a moment to recognize a group of veterans that never received enough recognition when they came home, he said, as he asked the Vietnam veterans to stand.
"Thank you to each and every vet here — we certainly live in a country that recognizes its veterans," Deering said.
As he spoke of the Howitzers, Deering said the newer versions being built are not made to wage war, but to ensure "peace of this great nation."
"We don't use these until we feel our freedoms or liberties are at risk," he said. "We don't do it to gain land, riches or resources…we do it to maintain our freedom in this great land."
Deering mentioned the "Greatest Generation" of World War II veterans for all they endured, the Korean veterans for time spent in the frozen climate during conflict, the Vietnam Veterans for their fight in the jungle and those serving today in the heat of the deserts.
Deering said it's important to remember veterans.
"Don't ever forget them — don't ever forget to say thank you," he said.