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Rockville Centre remembers Pearl Harbor attack

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Veterans and community members gathered Monday morning in Rockville Centre’s Mill River Complex Park to commemorate the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and to remember those who died that day. The ceremony is organized each year by American Legion Post 303, and attended by village officials and members of the police and fire departments.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the surprise military strike by the Japanese Navy Air Service at Pearl Harbor, in Hawaii, led to the United States’ entry into World War II. Eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged during the attack, and four sank. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed, and 1,178 were wounded.

“We are here to remember the start of our country’s involvement in World War II and the over 400,000 members of our military who died in that war,” Chaplain Joseph Scarola, a past commander of Post 303, said in his opening prayer. “We are here to remember the many sacrifices made for us. May this ceremony today be a worthy acknowledgement of those sacrifices.”

In the short but moving ceremony, Mayor Francis X. Murray spoke of the power of the American spirit, and the American military, after the attack. “Seventy-nine years ago today, the Japanese put forth an unprovoked attack on U.S. soil at Pearl Harbor, murdering thousands of our innocent sailors,” he said. “As the Japanese celebrated, their own admiral, [Isoroku] Yamamoto, told them, ‘I fear what we have done is to have awakened a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.’

“He was right,” Murray added. “Japan had the most powerful navy in the world at that time, but they underestimated the American determination and spirit.”

Frank Colon, Post 303’s commander, stressed the importance of remembering the date. “Today, as we honor the men and women who fought on Dec. 7, 1941, let us never forget their sacrifices in preserving our freedoms from the Axis powers who tried to take that away from us,” Colon said. “We, as veterans, will always hold this date, which will live in infamy, sacred, and will remember the greatest generation for saving our freedom.

“The men and women of today’s armed forces carry on that tradition of fighting for the freedoms we care so deeply for, and for justice and our Constitution of the United States of America,” Colon added. “Today we commemorate the duties of the veterans to honor the fallen for freedom and the American way of life so future generations will never lose sight of duty, honor and country.”

Murray and Bill Marinaccio, commander of American Legion Post 335, in Lynbrook, tossed a commemorative wreath into the river, and the ceremony concluded with the playing of taps by bugler Joseph Marciano, and a closing prayer.

“We thank you for the wonderful country that we live in, the freedom and security that we have, and the military of our country who fought to give us those freedoms,” Scarola said. “May we never take them for granted.”