Updated Mon, Dec 9, 2013 10:36 am
Members of the American Legion Post 21 stood resolute along the West Union Street bridge Saturday morning, a ceremonial wreath floating below them down the Hocking River bearing infinite sorrow.
To those who lost their lives, to the thousands injured in the attacks, to the initial feeling of despair galvanizing courage among millions – 72 years after Pearl Harbor, local veterans honor the anniversary of the attacks, still identifying with the ensuing nationwide call to serve.
Post 21 Commander Larry Klinglesmith, a combat construction engineer during the Vietnam War, led the brief ceremony on the bridge.
"We dedicate this wreath to those at Pearl Harbor," he said, the toss into the river below symbolizing those who died at sea on Dec. 7, 1941.
Klinglesmith's Army service during Vietnam led him to the precarious Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. He said his "close calls" during the war gave him a deeper appreciation for those wounded or killed at Pearl Harbor.
"(The anniversary) has my total respect. A lot of them gave their lives," he said.
Others in the American Legion Post 21 gathered after the ceremony, offering their own views and memories of the day which led the United States into World War II.
John Montgomery, of Athens, said he was a young boy in Gallia County when the attacks occurred. Decades later, he served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
"I was just over three years old," he said. "A guy up on the hill hollered at my dad that they bombed Pearl Harbor."
One local Vietnam War veteran, Donald McVey, said he served at Pearl Harbor at one point during his career in the U.S. Army and Navy before retiring in 1992.
"I think I share the same thoughts as all Americans," he said of the attacks. "The lesson learned is to have the largest and greatest military ... always be prepared."
Their shared military service offers them perspective on the fateful day 72 years ago, Klinglesmith said. He himself feels lucky to have returned to civilian life safely, knowing that many at Pearl Harbor and throughout American history were unable to do the same.
"I have a lot of memories (of serving). A lot of them are memories, a lot of them are nightmares," he said. "I'm pretty proud of being a veteran."