Seventy-two years ago, the Empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941. More than 2,000 American lives were lost, four battleships sunk (including the USS Arizona) and 188 aircraft destroyed. Japan lost 64 men and 29 planes in the attack. America took a major hit, and many lives were forever changed on this day.
On Friday, December 6, a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day program was held in the courtyard of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Two Waters complex. This event was held to remember those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and to honor those who served our country during World War II.
The roaring of motorcycles echoing near the Two Waters complex announced the arrival of the SRPMIC Red Mountain Riders, Native Riders, Patriot Guard Riders and the American Legion Riders. The master of ceremonies, Pacer Reina, the SRPMIC Veterans Representative, welcomed all those in attendance and SRPMIC Council Member Delbert Ray offered an opening prayer.
“As a veteran, it’s really [great to see] that the fighting men of our country are finally being recognized, and more so that it’s being done here in our Community. I’m very honored to be able to participate in this event,” said Ray.
In addition to Ray, SRPMIC President Diane Enos, Vice-President Martin Harvier, and Council members Deanna Scabby and Tom Largo were present. The Bushmasters Auxiliary and the SRPMIC Young Marines were also recognized at this event.
Community member Barbara Johnson sang two beautiful musical numbers, including the national anthem. Rick Dumas, vice-commander of American Legion Post 114, and guest speaker Joe Abodeely, director of the Arizona Military Museum, also offered kind words to those in attendance. Abodeely gave a brief history of the Bushmasters and their relationship to the Community.
“I’m honored to be here,” said Abodeely. “As American Indians, and to those of you that represent this Community, [you] have always played a part in Arizona and American history. You all have a great deal to be very proud of, and I’m proud to be here to speak with you today. If you’re young and you go and serve our country, remember to say you’re from Arizona. Arizona has a lot of great lineage.”
A moment to remember was the airing of the flag, also known as the breathing ceremony. The flag was held by those in the U.S. Naval Reserve and was faced in each direction, giving all of those in attendance a view of the red, white and blue. “The [specific] flag used in this ceremony has a lot of rich history and meaning to it,” said Reina.
In 2007, due to the perseverance of the late Joel Jefferson, Bushmasters American Legion Bushmaster Post #114 member, the Post was awarded the honor of receiving a flag flown over the USS Arizona Memorial, and traveled to Hawaii to take part in a ceremony to receive the flag that was presented by one of the few remaining Pearl Harbor survivors. At that time, they were the only Native American Post in Arizona to have been given a flag. Since then this program has been a tradition. The Community brings out the flag every year to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and to never forget the sacrifice made by those who fought and returned home.
This flag was refolded, handed to Largo and departed to Post 39 in Gilbert, where it stayed overnight. The next morning, December 7, the flag was escorted to the Arizona State Capitol. It will be displayed at the Arizona Military Museum for one year, as a part of the World War II memorial. Next year, it will be escorted back to the Community in a similar ceremony.
“This program not only reminds us of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, but the long history of our men who served in combat. It is my personal belief that the veterans who returned home [should make it] their duty to make sure that others never forget that sacrifice. That’s what this remembrance program was about,” said Reina.
For more information on upcoming veterans events in the Community, call Pacer Reina at (480) 362-7490 or Delphine Burbank, president of the Bushmasters Auxiliary, at (480) 362-5703.