MADISON, Ala. -- 78 years ago, a surprise raid on a major United States Navy base near Honolulu killed more than 2400 Americans and brought the U.S. into World War II. "December 7, 1941... a date which will live in infamy," said President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Members of the community, including other veterans, spent the anniversary morning at the Memory Garden in Madison paying respects and giving honor to those who spent their life fighting for our freedom.
Each year, the Madison American Legion Post 229 places around 550 wreaths on the graves of veterans. On Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, they honored a 100-year-old veteran. "We had a ceremony with one of our World War II veterans who served in the Pacific and was on ship and rolled into Pearl Harbor the day after the attack," says Larry Vannoy, Post 229 commander. "That was Sherwin Callander."
Callander remembers the very day. "We were coming back from Wake Island and the Japanese aircraft carrier passed us," he says. "They didn't want to spoil the surprise so they let us go."
The next day, Callander says he pulled into Pearl Harbor. "The worst mess I've ever seen in my life," says Callander. "There was still some bodies in the water. I had to help get them out." Callander says because of that day, he volunteered for amphibious training and made the invasions of North Africa, Italy, and D-Day at Normandy on Utah Beach.
Lester Barnard attended the event and is also a veteran. He says since having been a veteran and knowing what it's like, he encourages people to pause and honor those who have served. "I'd like to say that these young men coming up... they're our future and we owe them," says Barnard.
Callander's biggest piece of advice: For people to learn history -- so we aren't doomed to repeat it: "That they remember Pearl Harbor from now on and never, never let it happen again."
On January 4, Madison American Legion Post 229 will be taking down Christmas wreaths from veterans' graves and they are inviting the community to join.