In 2007, members of the American Legion Post 114 Bushmasters traveled to Hawaii to receive the U.S. flag that flew over the USS Arizona Memorial from June 4 to July 4, 2007. The flag was folded by sailors from the U.S. Navy on July 4 and presented to the post by survivors of the USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor in October 2007. There was a request by the servitors to open the flag in December 2007 and remember all who have given their lives in service to our country. In honor of that request, the Bushmasters Post 114 has developed a “breathing” of the flag that in our culture pays respect to the four directions.
Last year, the flag was lent out for display at the Arizona State Capitol to honor all those who served at that time and who lost their lives.
This year marked the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In honor and remembrance of all who have given their lives in military service to our country, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community held Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day on December 7 at the Pavilions at Talking Stick. Prior to the ceremony, Community members and visitors were invited to view the flag at the Salt River Community Building from 6 to 7:30 a.m.
After the viewing of the flag, a number of motorcyclists escorted it to the Pavilions. A small parade of motorcycle riders, color guards and honor guards walked the flag through the parking lot to where the ceremony was held.
Host Pacer Reina welcomed everyone to the event, and Community elder Barbara Johnson gave the opening prayer. The special guest speaker was Eddie Tantoco, vice president of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, based in Phoenix. As a military historian, Tantoco provided a brief summary of the events that occurred on December 7, 1941, and shared some of his personal feelings about the effect the attack had on the United States.
“I am a corporate vice president for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and we have a lot of hotels in Hawaii,” Tantoco said. “It brings me great pleasure every time I go there to talk to the elders about the tragic day when the Japanese Imperial Army attacked our land. … it was quite a turning point in our country’s history. It was a time that our nation got together, people of all colors, to defend the land.
“After [World War II], we ended up becoming the number-one economy in the world and the number-one military. For those who do not remember, before the war we [had] the 17th largest military [force]. Number 16 was Bulgaria—that goes to show how small our military was, and within a couple of years we were the largest military.”
Tantoco explained that the company he works for believes in the saying “What you don’t know will hurt you.”
“We knew back in the late 30s that we were on a collision course with the Imperial Army of Japan because of what they were doing in conquering Asia. We knew they would eventually attack our land,” said Tantoco. “[A] military radar operator [in Hawaii] saw the [Japanese] planes coming in on his radar, and he told his commanding officer, a young lieutenant on his second day on the job, that the planes were coming. But he thought it was our planes coming back from an exercise. Needless to say, we all know what happened that day. It was sad because one of the battleships that sank was the USS Arizona, we are here today to bring the flag home to Arizona where it belongs.”
“The USS Arizona was launched in 1915, named for the 48th state in the Union. On December 7, the USS Arizona was sitting in ‘Battleship Row’ within Pearl Harbor, along with five other battleships. The Arizona was tragically hit in the ammunition section, killing 1,177. It sank, along with three other battleships. After the attack, about 3,500 of our people either died or were severely wounded. It became the turning point of what created a great nation today.
“My company does business in more than 100 countries. I have had the good fortune to travel and do business in so many countries,” continued Tantoco.
“When they make fun of our country because we are people from different races, religions and nationalities, I always try to give the last word: ‘Yes, we have problems in our country. But in this country you can be born very poor but grow up to be the richest person in the world.’ All of a sudden no one wants to say anything bad about our country anymore. I am very proud to be American.”
SRPMIC President Diane Enos shared a few words about the Pearl Harbor attack.
“I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have been there at Pearl Harbor when this horrible attack occurred,” she said. “But in the Community here, an elder, Alfretta Antone, told me about the aftermath when many of our young men enlisted in the services when World War II began. She said it was like they woke up one day and all the young men were gone. It was terribly lonely, and one after another families got word of the loss of their family member—their brother, their son, their nephew, their grandson. People all over the world will fight and they will do whatever it takes to be free to be able to get together at any time to express their opinions.”
Following the speeches, the U.S. Marine Corps retrieved the flag and, along with the Salt River Fire Department Ladder 293, raised the flag to pay honor to the USS Arizona Memorial. As the flag was raised, Alexa Juarez sang the national anthem, which was followed by a moment of silence and the placing of a wreath that was decorated by the Community Elders Men’s Group.
SRPMIC Council Representative Ricardo Leonard recited a closing prayer to end the Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony. The flag was escorted to the Arizona State Capitol to honor those who lost their lives or were wounded at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.