GALLOWAY - Stockton University remembered those who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 with a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the surprise attack on the naval base that lead to the United States entering World War II.
“Today we mark a very important day,” said Tom O’Donnell, assistant Dean of Students and vice chair of Stockton’s Veterans Affairs on Dec. 7 during the wreath-laying ceremony at Stockton University’s Veterans Park.
The ceremony and the luncheon that followed were a part of a state-wide remembrance of that infamous day.
Paul Garrity, president of the Stockton Student Veterans Organization, said he felt privileged to have the chance to speak at such a historic event, especially to the World War II veterans who were present.
“Being able to speak to you is one of the greatest honors.” said Garrity, who understands the sacrifices WWII veterans had to make with being a veteran himself and having had several family members who served during WWII, some who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The ceremony was live-streamed around the world and included a presentation of the Colors, as well as musical performances by Stockton student Brielle Lord and Stockapella.
The wreath-laying ceremony was followed by a luncheon in the university’s Campus Center Events Room. One of the people who spoke during the luncheon was John Thomas, WWII veteran and chair of the New Jersey State Pearl Harbor Event.
“I am elated, this has turned out to be a wonderful situation,” said Thomas prior to making his way onto the stage. “The people at Stockton are so cooperative with what we are trying to do. I think Pearl Harbor should be remembered all over the nation, not just at Pearl Harbor.”
“Mr. Thomas envisioned this event,” said O’Donnell when introducing Thomas.
Thomas talked about his service in the Pacific arena of the war in New Guinea and the Philippines in a segregated unit.
“World War II helped to bring changes,” said Thomas as he said he feels the war eventually helped to end the segregation in the United States military.
The luncheon also included a special speaker in Lee Darby, a daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor and member of the organization Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor survivors.
“My dad is my hero. He will always be my hero,” said Darby as she held up a photo of her father. Darby said her father often talked about his experiences at Pearl Harbor. Darby now thinks that was a sign of post traumatic stress disorder after having worked with veterans.
Darby was briefly interrupted when O’Donnell stepped up on stage at 12:48 p.m. to observe a national moment of silence. That was the time on the East Coast of when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began.
After Darby finished her speech, she presented O’Donnell and Stockton University with a painting of Pearl Harbor that had hung in her family’s house for years.