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Remembering a generation: Jacksonville honors the ones who gave it all at Pearl Harbor

The ceremony drew people who lived through the attack and those who ran into action after.
Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 8:41 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - Like yesterday, Pat Walker remembers the day 79 years ago when 2,403 military personnel and civilians died at Pearl Harbor.

“I remember, as a little girl, the vets coming home,” said Pat, who now serves as the national Vice President for the Marine Corps League Auxiliary. “When they catch us sleeping, it’s tragic. For more than just the military.”

Her husband, Retired Staff Sgt. Lee Walker, was not born on December 7, 1941, but he does recall the pain. Just 40 years after the Japanese bombed service members and civilians, he would survive the bombing in Beirut.

“I can relate very well,” said Staff Sgt. Walker. “I lost a lot of friends in Vietnam. I lost of friends in Beirut.”

Over 40 years separated then, and 40 years since, when both of their lives would change forever.

“You sign a contract, and you go in,” said Lee. “The ultimate is, it’s very possible that you die.”

The attack would force American troops into World War II.

“They didn’t know what they were getting into,” said Pat. “And when the bombing happened, and we lost all those lives, it affected people all the way across the country.”

They bring that pain into strength today to all of those who never met those who gave it all.

“It’s important to remember these people honor them because they weren’t always honored and respected like they should be,” said Lee.

The first major attack on America is what retired service members called a domino effect, leading to almost a century worth of significant historical events from Vietnam to Desert Storm to the attacks on 9/11.

“Never forget to say thank you to a veteran,” said Pat. “Whether he was there in peacetime or in battle. A simple thank you goes a long way.”

And to remember it like it was yesterday, and bring the strength of the greatest generation that inspired the ones who came after.

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