HUNTSVILLE, AL. (WHNT) — On this day 81 years ago, the Japanese military launched a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor — drawing the United States into the Second World War.

A local ceremony to honor the lives lost that day was held at Veterans Memorial Park in Huntsville on Wednesday.

“It was a surprise attack upon our nation, but our nation was very strong… we did not give in, we did not quit, and that’s a part of our culture in America,” said Washington Johnson, a U.S. Navy captain.

“We believe and we work together and having served as the deputy region chaplain at Hawaii, it was a blessing every day putting on that uniform and remembering those individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice,” Johnson continued.

Of the nearly 2,500 soldiers who lost their lives during Pearl Harbor, among them was a 20-year-old Seaman 1st Class Luther James Isom. The Alabamian was aboard the USS Arizona when bombs rained down from Japanese aircraft in the surprise attack that sunk the ship and drew the U.S. into the war.

His family met someone who says “Luke” switched places with them.

“He said had it not been for Luke, he probably would have been killed that day because he was a young boxer,” said Mike Ivey, Isom’s nephew. “Luke switched with him so that he could go that night to another ship to do a demonstration for some senior officials that were in the area.”

“By doing that, his life was saved and Luke was taken,” Ivey continued.

The family says there’s no greater honor than being a public servant.

“Being a public servant especially in the area of being able to serve your country, it’s probably no greater honor than being able to do that,” Ivey said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. It’s a great career and it’s something that all men and women ought to consider.”