On October 12, 2007, the Salt River American Legion Post #114 “Bushmasters” were presented with a United States flag that had survived the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Since receiving this flag, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has had the honor of taking care of it, and each year on December 7 it has lent the flag out for display to honor all those who served at that time and who lost their lives.
This year the Community held a special Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day program that began on the Community and ended with the Bushmasters’ flag flying over the Arizona State Capitol. Many veterans and family members of veterans attended.
The flag, which was lying in state in the early morning at the Salt River Repository, was escorted by the Bushmasters and the Salt River High School JROTC to the Salt River Ball Field, where the program took place. The program began with an opening prayer and the posting of the colors by the JROTC.
The guest speaker, SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier, spoke about the day in October 2007 when he witnessed the Bushmasters receiving the flag in Hawaii.
“Before we were able to make the trip [to Hawaii] to retrieve the flag, a lot of work was done by the late Joel Jefferson, who was very instrumental in getting the flag for the Salt River [American Legion post],” Harvier said. “That morning at Pearl Harbor there was [a sense of] calming, and you could feel the spirits of those who gave their lives. I saw a group of young men and women from the Navy, and it made me think about all those young men and young women who were on the ships that day the attack happened.”
Harvier continued by recounting the historic events of that day. The attack happened at 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time on December 7, 1941. Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, one of the deadliest attacks in American history. More than 2,500 lives were lost and more than 1,000 were wounded. The attack heavily damaged or destroyed 18 American ships and nearly 300 airplanes.
The Bushmasters’ trip to Hawaii in 2007 included a visit to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. The memorial honors the more than 1,100 military personnel who were killed on the USS Arizona and all others who died in the Pearl Harbor attack. “As we walked across the monument to a wall that has all the names inscribed on marble, you could see oil still coming to the top of the water,” Harvier said. “It says that the day before [the attack], on December 6, 1941, the Arizona took on a full load of fuel, nearly 1.5 million gallons, to prepare to sail to the mainland. When the ship went down, despite the fires and everything that happened, they estimated there was still some 500,000 gallons of fuel on board, and they refer to the oil as it comes to the top of the water as ‘Arizona tears’ or ‘black tears.’ It was a very humble experience to be there. I wanted to mention that day for the visitors that are here.”
Following Harvier, members of American Legion Post #114 escorted the flag out of the Community Building to the parking lot, where members of the Salt River Fire Department and ladder truck 293 were sent to hold and raise the flag.
The American Legion members handed the flag over to members of the Navy Reserve, who unfolded it to prepare for the flag-raising. After the flag was raised, American Legion member Thomas Jackson played “Taps” on his horn and Community member Martha Ludlow-Martinez sang the national anthem in O’odham. Afterward, SRPMIC Council members assisted in the laying of a wreath.
Concluding the ceremony, an array of motorcyclists, including members of the Red Mountain Riders and other veteran motorcyclists, escorted the flag to the State Capitol, where it was on display for the rest of the day.
“I have attended the last three Pearl Harbor events here in this Community,” said Mike Wooten, a member of American Legion Post #30 in Gilbert and the American Legion Riders. “I feel I am paying my respect to the people who lost their lives, and I feel honored to be included in the event. As Vice-President Harvier said, it is a very humbling thing and it gives you time to reflect and to be thankful for what you do have and why you have it.”
Community member Emily King also attended the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day program. “My feeling … is that a lot of our young people don’t really know what veterans are, or what it means [to be a veteran]. If they do, it’s only what they see on the surface. We’re fortunate here in the Community to have [not only] schools [but many other toprograms for our youth], and it would be nice if we could get [more participation from younger Community members in these types of events].
“The freedom that they have … it wasn’t just given to us overnight, it took many lives to make us free, and that’s why I’d like to see more of the schools, more of the youth groups, the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, take part in some way. Knowing and understanding freedom is knowing and understanding what we can build in the Community to share with the outside, but we have to be whole first.”