On Monday, December 8, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC), veterans groups, families and friends assembled at the Community Building to mark Pearl Harbor Day, a day to show reverence and to remember the impact that the attack on Pearl Harbor had on the United States. On December 7, 1941, Japanese pilots conducted a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, at 7:48 a.m. local time, which killed 2,403 Americans and injured thousands of others.
The day changed the course of world history. The Japanese attack propelled the U.S. into World War II, in which the U.S., Great Britain and many allied nations fought against opposing forces from Germany, Italy and Japan. On the day after the Pearl Harbor bombing, the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made his famous speech characterizing his view of the events that took place as “a day that would live in infamy” and announcing that the U.S. had declared war on Japan.
Many Native Americans, including members of the SRPMIC, enlisted or were drafted into the military to help defend their country. The wartime service of Native American soldiers is well documented in history and etched into the memories of many soldiers. They have vast and unforgettable recollections of battles like Midway, Iwo Jima, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy and more, which makes the commemoration of the Pearl Harbor attack so significant for many Americans.
The day’s events began with a thoughtful invocation and blessing provided by SRPMIC Tribal Council Representative Tom Largo. American Legion Post 114 (Bushmasters) Commander Darrell Hills offered opening remarks. He thanked all in attendance and gave special recognition to American Legion Department of Arizona Commander Andres “Andy” Jaime and American Legion Arizona Alternate National Executive Committee member Judi Beischel, who were in attendance.
A key point in the ceremony happened when master of ceremonies E. Pacer Reina assisted Commander Hills as he narrated a presentation that described the story behind how, in 2007, the SRPMIC was given the privilege of receiving a flag that had flown over the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. A contingency of American Legion Post 114 members, including SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier and others, made the trip to Hawaii and the memorial to retrieve the flag, all because of the efforts of the late Joel Jefferson, a member of American Legion Post 114. Since 2007, this special American flag has been revered and held as a most respected symbol of Post 114, housed in a secure area.
As in past remembrances, the SRPMIC Pearl Harbor event included the presentation and raising of this special USS Arizona Memorial flag, which involved the airing of the flag in a “breathing ceremony,” whereby special care was taken by a flag detail comprised of SRPMIC and other veterans and the Salt River Fire Department (SRFD) Honor Guard. The large flag was then raised to the highest point of SRFD ladder truck 293, as a moment of silence was taken to remember all who were killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
Huhugam Ki Museum archivist Steve Hoza, a captain in the U.S. Air Force and a former aviation curator, spoke to the audience about some of the details of the Pearl Harbor event. A World War II historian, he shared details of military maneuvering that took place during this time period.
The December 8 event was the culmination of a weekend of activities related to Pearl Harbor remembrances for Post 114. The special USS Arizona Memorial flag, which members of Post 114 had to arrange for its retrieval from the Arizona State Capitol Museum, was returned its honored resting place.
For more information on SRPMIC veterans affairs, contact E. Pacer Reina at (480) 362-7490.