On October 12, 2007, the 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 program to honor and remember all those in the military who were involved in that tragic day 69 years ago, and to lend out the flag to fly over the Arizona State Capitol. Many veterans and families of veterans attended. The flag, which was lying in state in the early morning at the Salt River Repository, was then escorted by the American Legion Post 114 Bushmasters and the Salt River JROTC to the Salt River Ball Field, where the program took place.
The program began with a opening prayer by former Community Vice-President Alfretta Antone, who thanked the Creator for comforting all those who lost loved ones serving their country.
Bushmasters Commander Ricardo “Brusha” Leonard took time to acknowledge Raymond Valenzuela, who was a crew member on the USS Arizona.
“He was there when it went down, and he was very instrumental in saving a lot of lives. We carry our staff today with his name on it, to honor him and to bring him back to us for a little bit to be with us in spirit,” said Leonard.
There was also a special recognition for the late Joel Jefferson, who was very instrumental in getting the flag for the Salt River post. He tried for years, calling the USS Arizona Memorial in Honolulu about the possibility of receiving a flag that had been flown over the memorial site. Finally, Jefferson made contact with Skip Wheeler at the USS Arizona Memorial and plans were made for the Bushmasters to receive a flag in 2007.
The guest speaker, U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) and Community Manager Bryan Meyers, was truly honored to speak about the history of Pearl Harbor.
“It was 69 years ago to this day [when] the sky over Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was filled with Japanese planes. When the last wave of attacking aircraft rejoined the Japanese fleet, 1,200 Americans lay wounded and over 2,400 lay dead, and a great portion of the U.S. Pacific Fleet was in shambles,” explained Meyers.
“Memories can get lost after 69 years, and our younger generation may ask why remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor is so important. I think there are two key points to remember. On December 8, , in President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress, he said, “No matter how long it may take for us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.’ The president went on to state, ‘I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again.’
“That point made by President Roosevelt shall never be lost. We all need to make sure that this great nation continues to do everything in its power to keep such treachery from ever happening again,” Meyers continued. “The second key point for us to remember is those who lost their lives serving this country and the resulting sacrifice of their families. That morning at Pearl Harbor, many military personnel were killed as they ran to man their battle stations. Families across our nation listened in horror as the radio [reports] announced the destruction and death. And for the next 44 months, thousands of children watched their fathers and mothers answer the call to arms [in World War II]; nearly 300,000 men and women never saw their families again.
“Today is the time to say thank you for all those who served, and their families who endure the sacrifices while their loved ones serve,” concluded Meyers.
SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier spoke about the day in October 2007 he witnessed the American Legion Post 114 Bushmasters receive the flag in Hawaii.
“It was a very emotional ceremony the way they honored those who are entombed in that ship. We were greeted by two Pearl Harbor survivors, who presented the flag to the Community veterans,” said Harvier. “It was something to watch. From that day I really felt humbled to take part in that program.”
Harvier thanked each veteran who was present for their service and paid tribute to those who lost their lives on the USS Arizona.
Following the guest speakers, Leonard, Harvier and a representative from the Navy Reserve placed a wreath next to the flag. A short time later, the Bushmasters unfolded the flag as a gun salute was performed by the Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard, followed by “Taps” and a moment of silence.
At the end of the program, Joan Clark, deputy director of operations and planning for the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, retrieved the flag and took it to the state capitol, were it was displayed for the rest of that day in the rotunda.
“We are most appreciative of all the efforts that have gone into planning [this event] and feel that this flag today will hopefully inspire others to think about the tragedy and loss of war and to work towards peace,” said Clark.
Clark presented a gift to the Community of a small replica of the USS Arizona and a small commemorative piece about the silver service that was saved from the battleship. The silver service is on display at the Arizona State Capitol Museum.
More than 50 motorcyclists, including the members of the Red Mountain Riders and other veteran motorcyclists, escorted Clark and the flag to the State Capitol as the program came to an end.