by MC2 Daniel Barker
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Detachment Hawaii
Eighteen Pearl Harbor survivors from across the state of Wisconsin, along with their caregivers, volunteer medical team and support staff, visited the USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor Visitor Center and other historic sites on Oahu on June 15.
The private boat tour to the USS Arizona Memorial was led by Capt. Larry Scruggs, chief staff officer for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, during a special visit hosted by the Navy and the National Park Service.
“Today the National Park Service is honored to welcome Pearl Harbor survivors visiting from the state of Wisconsin. We welcomed them at World War II Valor in the Pacific at our visitor’s center,” said Kelsea Holbrook, a National Park Service ranger. “They visited the museums and saw the documentary film that precedes the beginning of the USS Arizona Memorial program.”
The tour was part of “Old Glory Honor Flight, Return to Pearl,” a program dedicated to transporting World War II veterans to see the memorials built in their honor.
“The power of that day was the power of people coming together to do what God and country had put them together to do” said Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Jon Brzek during a ceremony on the Arizona Memorial.
This year marks the 71st anniversary of the bombing of U.S. armed forces in Hawaii.
“Some of you spent three or five years away from home,” said Randy Myszka, guest speaker and medical volunteer for the group. “Most of you endured incredible hardship, but you persevered. Long before it was a buzzword, you showed us what it was like to be resilient.”
There was a special presentation at the memorial for 89-year-old Mark Schaitel, one of the Wisconsin Pearl Harbor survivors on the trip, who passed away during the plane flight on the way to Hawaii. A ceremonial wreath and flag were dedicated to him at the memorial.
The veterans also paid their respects at other historical sites including the USS Oklahoma Memorial, USS Utah Memorial, Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Field, Fort Shafter, Pacific Aviation Museum and the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).
This special “Old Glory” mission gave the survivors one last chance to say goodbye to their fallen comrades.