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Pearl Harbor Ceremony

I attended the Pearl Harbor ceremony in Westfield on Dec. 7 and thought I would share it with those who weren't there. It was a great experience as this was the first one I have been to.

As I stood waiting for the ceremony to begin, I saw the American Legion Post 124 getting their Honor Guard in position. I saw members of the Post 454, the VFW, the Marine Corp League, [Westfield] Mayor [Charles] Medeiros, Mayor-elect [Michael] Boulanger, Sen. [Michael] Knapik and other town officials. It didn't really hit me until I saw actual survivors from Pearl Harbor how important this ceremony was. These people were ACTUALLY there when this cowardly act was thrust upon a completely unsuspecting group of U.S. military and civilian people. I can't even comprehend what that was like. As Mayor Medeiros read his speech, I heard something that really made me think. On this day, 2,388 servicemen lost their lives. To date, their are 3,888 confirmed U.S. deaths from our present conflict. So in a matter of minutes, literally a matter of minutes, we lost almost as many service members at that moment as we have for this entire war in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is almost the same number of innocent people that we lost on the attacks of Sept. 11.

These people are a living part of history. I don't care how many history books you read in school, or after, nothing can substitute for the real thing. These people are living, breathing pages from those books. Living pages that can tell you what it was really like to encounter how horrible war can be. How thousands of lives can be changed in minutes. How grateful we all should be to have these heroes living amongst us.

After the wreath was thrown from the bridge, TAPS was played. The Westfield Police had traffic stopped, and were saluting. The men working on the bridge were lined up against the fence with their hardhats over their hearts. The busiest, noisiest part of Westfield was silent. What a great job by all.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Commander of Post 124 was presented with a plaque. On this plaque, is an actual piece of the U.S.S. Arizona. An actual piece of these history pages, brought to life. It WILL give you Goosebumps to touch this plaque. It SHOULD give you the chills just to see it. I know it did for me.

Thank you to the American Legion , and everyone else, for a job well done. The people of Westfield should be proud these organizations. They should be proud of their patriotism.

They are proud of their heroes, that's for sure.

Richard J. Girard Jr.

Director of Western Hampden District Department of Veterans' Services