Five veterans told the stories of their life-changing experiences at the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway during a Veterans Day ceremony yesterday.
The Oak Harbor High School Performing Arts Center was full of veterans, their families and community members. The Oak Harbor Area Council, Navy League of the United States presented the ceremony. This year’s theme was honoring Pearl Harbor survivors.
“I am so proud,” said veteran Cecil Calavan about his military service in a video tribute to Pearl Harbor veterans. “I just feel God gave me a blessing to serve in the U.S. Navy.”
The reason Calavan said he survived the attack was because he was shaving. He was on the USS Utah in Pearl Harbor and had gone aft to shave when the first torpedo struck the compartment he’d just been in. As he watched the second torpedo head toward the ship, he didn’t understand what was going on and thought it was a mistake.
Calavan ended up swimming for shore and lay in a ditch with others as shrapnel rained from the sky.
“Being young was an advantage for me that day because I didn’t realize how much danger I was in,” Calavan said in the video.
Also honored in the video was veteran James Stansell, who was 18 at the time of the attack.
“I was scared half to death but I did manage to look everywhere, and everywhere there was an explosion,” Stansell said in the video.
Harold Johnson was 17 years old and eagerly awaiting a date with a young lady later that day when told to man his battle station on the USS Oklahoma.
“To me, the worst part of the day was the rest of the day and night,” Johnson said, describing a day spent hauling oil-covered men into boats, responding to a multitude of false alarms and curling up in the mess hall to try to sleep. “All you could do was think: what’s the future?”
At the ceremony, musical performances by the Daybreak Trio, the Oak Harbor High School Harbor Singers, the Chancel Choir of the First United Methodist Church and the All-Island Community Band honored the veterans, those still serving and their families.
“Your contributions to the greatness of America cannot be repaid,” said Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowik, a Marine Corps veteran.
As the Chancel Choir sang a medley of the songs of each branch of the military, veterans stood for their branch’s song, saluting and putting their hands over their hearts.
The five veterans featured in the video ceremonially handed their watch to the NJROTC Wildcat Battalion of Oak Harbor High School, letting the next generation take over.
Looking back on his and others’ military service, Calavan said that the generation of Pearl Harbor survivors was a great generation.
There was a moment of silence to honor departed veterans, followed by a soulful rendition of “Eternal Father Strong to Save” by the Harbor Singers.
“I simply say from the bottom of our collective hearts, thank you, veterans. Job well done,” Slowik said.