Shared bonds

There was a chill of remembrance in the air Friday morning as Naval Air Station Whidbey Island took time to mark the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

At the Seaplane Base marina, the water lapped the docks just as it possibly did moments before Japanese bombers laid destruction on the ships moored in and around Pearl Harbor.

Veterans, Pearl Harbor survivors, and their spouses, arrived to red carpet treatment, with sailors standing at attention, saluting each distinguished visitor as they entered the ceremony tent.

Today’s warriors — the sailors of EODMU-11 — stood watch as warriors of the greatest generation — Pearl Harbor survivors and other veterans of World War II — were honored. Fewer and fewer survivors are able to be honored each year, a fact that weighed heavily on the veterans.

World War II veteran Stanley Zemont and Korean War veteran Roger Allen came from Bellingham to join in the observance.

“Freedom’s not free, we have to remember to fight for it,” Allen said.

Among the military brass in attendance was Rear Adm. James Symonds, Commander, Navy Region Northwest. Speeches by Symonds, Chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Philip King and master of ceremonies Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Murphy talked of the “Band of Brothers” that has formed between EODMU-11 and the Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Association Chapter 5.

They are “two generations of warriors linked by loss and sacrifice.”

“The circumstances are different, but the consequences are the same,” Adm. Symonds said.

Pearl Harbor Survivors Association Chapter 5 president Jim Stansell acknowledged the loss of sailors EODMU-11 has seen this year while in Iraq and thanked the sailors in attendance for their continued service.

Following the placing of a wreath in the marina waters and the playing of Taps, those gathered retired to the EODMU-11 headquarters building for light refreshments and continued conversation.

Chief Petty Officer Seth Armstrong listened intently as Don Bolton told the sailor about his experience serving on the USS Selfridge during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

While Armstrong admits to watching History Channel stories about the famed Leyte battle, he said the experience of hearing the story from someone who was in the thick of it was priceless.

“Just amazing,” Armstrong said.

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