Bethel's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10041 remembers Pearl Harbor
A small crowd of around two-dozen people lined up in the snow outside Bethel’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 10041.
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese bombers attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor outside of Honolulu, Hawaii, killing 2,403 Americans and injuring 1,178 others. That fateful day 82 years ago was a Sunday and the temperature in Honolulu was in the seventies, a stark contrast to the 10 degrees on Dec. 7 in Bethel.
"Usually we would lower the flags to half staff, but the flags are frozen at the top. It's part of being in Alaska," said VFW Post Vice Commander and Bethel Regional High School Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) Instructor Michael Calvetti.
"But other flags, if you're looking, are probably lowered to half staff. And that's the reason why is the remembrance of those people who gave their lives for our country,” Calvetti said.
He led the brief remembrance ceremony, which started with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It is a day that, according to President Roosevelt, he said this is a day that will live in infamy. This is just one small moment for us to do remembrance for all those who died that day, not only on the [USS] Arizona, the [USS] Oklahoma, the [USS] Utah, but those who were on land, and shoreline, and all the other places that were attacked,” Calvetti said.
VFW Post Manager James Wyckoff said that he believes events like these are important.
“It has to be done regularly so that the young people coming up can learn to appreciate what has been sacrificed for them to continue on in this country, with the liberty that they enjoy,” Wyckoff said.
Henry Hunter Sr. is a VFW Trustee and former post commander. He said that he’s determined to prioritize the tradition of honoring those that came before.
“We will continue to honor those men and women who lost their lives on this day, Dec. 7, to make sure that they're never forgotten. And all the rest of the Americans that serve to make sure that democracy is still alive, and freedom is not free,” Hunter Sr. said.
The event brought together generations in Bethel. High school JROTC student Liam Phelan said that he appreciates service and sacrifice.
“We have to remember those who have fallen and fought for us,” Phelan said.
The 16-year-old junior plans to enlist in the United States Marine Corps after graduating. And serving in uniform is a family affair.
“My brother, Thomas Phelan, is a Lance Cpl. in the Marine Corps. And my brother Shane is a private in the United States Coast Guard. And I know my sister is going to be a private when she graduates,” Phelan said.
Phelan’s sister Fiona is currently in the United States Air Force bootcamp.
As the assembled crowd faced the flag in the morning sunrise, snow plows cleared nearby roads and curious city and state employees peeked out the windows of the courthouse across the street.
VFW member and Vietnam War veteran Buck Bukowski led the prayer before Calvetti concluded the ceremony.
Although the frozen flag remained at full staff, the ceremony helped keep the tragedy of the attack on Pearl Harbor in the hearts of Bethel residents.