We recall a day of tragedy, sacrifice, and heroism that united a nation

Milford. Greg Protsko, Commander of VFW Post 8612 in Milford, shared the speech he gave to commemorate the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.

23 Dec 2019 | 01:41

Today, we recall an event on December 7, 1941, that forever changed the United States of America.

Seventy-eight years ago, the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan awoke a sleeping giant, and with it both tested the will of the American people like never before and produced what has been called the “Greatest Generation.”

December 7 was a day of tragedy, sacrifice, and heroism that united a nation. It was a day that lives in infamy.

On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, let us take a moment to honor and be inspired by all who served and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting to preserve our nation’s freedom.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s address to Congress the day after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, declaring our nation at war, is perhaps the most iconic speech in American history — particularly Roosevelt's famous line describing the horrific attack the prior day: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

That day of infamy produced many U.S. casualties: 3,500 dead or wounded, 18 ships sunk or damaged and more than 350 aircraft destroyed. Although it was a day of great tragedy, it was also a day that served to reignite our national pride and our great national spirit.

We recall the events of December 7, 1941, but more importantly, we remember the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who died during that terrible ambush and in the years that followed.

President Roosevelt spoke with prophetic words when he stated, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome the premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory ... with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.”

America had never been so gravely wounded, but was strengthened by its enduring values of freedom, tolerance and service. The long odds that we faced during the dark days that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, served to fuel the indomitable spirit of our nation. We united, steadfast, with one goal in mind — to do whatever it would take to defend their home and freedom.

The attack on Pearl Harbor taught us that we must be ever vigilant against enemies of our way of life. It taught us the necessity of maintaining a strong national defense, and a well-trained and well-equipped military able to thwart the efforts of freedom-hating tyrants.

The lessons learned from the attack on Pearl Harbor kept our nation safe and secure for nearly 60 years. But the tragic events of 9/11 taught us to never let our guard down. Even while we enjoy an abundance of freedom, we are not exempt from danger.

Pearl Harbor and September 11th proved one thing: our people may be attacked ... our buildings destroyed ... but our enemies will never be successful in crushing our democracy or destroying the American way of life.

Our collective response and ultimate victory in World War Two sent a message to the world: America will never go quietly into the night. We will always fight back, and we will prevail.

Today, though a great many survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor and those who fought in World War Two are no longer with us, we will always remember their contributions through service and their devotion to duty.

Each page of America’s history tells the story of the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces have made, and each colorful page illustrates the legacy of their accomplishments.

Along with freedom, there will always be a price paid. We are thankful for every service member willing to ensure evil and tyranny do not prevail.

Their contributions, their sacrifice, their steadfast devotion to duty, God, country and to their families, have provided us with examples of true character we need to emulate every day of our lives. Today, we continue to be inspired by their dignity and perseverance and are strengthened by the memory of their actions.

May we leave here equally resolved in our determination to serve our nation and fellow man as selflessly as they did.

I would like to than the members of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Marine Corps League Det. 909, the Vietnam Veterans Association, and all those who attended today’s ceremony.

In closing I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season.