PLAINS TWP. – Bill Melnyk, Andrew Kuzminski and Charles Neubert are surviving veterans of Pearl Harbor.
Today, on the 71st anniversary of the event, they battle health issues and not enemy attacks. They are steadfast in the belief that all veterans should be remembered for the sacrifices made for our country.
I hope people across the country appreciate what has been done in all the past years and wars to preserve our freedom, said Melnyk, who grew up in Plains Township and now lives in Michigan. Hundreds of World War II veterans die every day. Very few remain from that day of infamy when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was thrown into World War II.
A young Neubert drove a truck for the U.S. Army during World War II – a truck that carried bodies out of Pearl Harbor. Neubert was 20 years old. Now 91, Neubert lives in Hazleton.
I'm thinking I'm the only one around Hazleton that was there, he said of his time at Pearl Harbor.
Melnyk and Kuzminski and three other men (now deceased) from the same Plains Township neighborhood enlisted in 1940 at the Army recruiting office in Wilkes-Barre and ended up in Hawaii.
They arrived in Hawaii on the island of Oahu and they were taken to Hickam Field, separated by a fence from Pearl Harbor. The five were placed in jobs on the base.
In a Times Leader story published in 2010, Melnyk told the story of the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, that detailed the attack. He told of hearing the planes approaching and seeing the Rising Sun insignia on the bombers.
Melnyk's account is harrowing. He saw the wounded, the bleeding, the dying. He did what he could to help. Melnyk found his four friends two days later.
We were all lucky, he said.
Hazleton resident Neubert would rather forget about how after the attack, he had to carry the bodies of hundreds of soldiers in his truck to the Punchbowl – the mass burial site on the island.
We could see all the dead bodies around, Neubert said in 2009. That really hit us hard.
Two local veterans – Jim Walsh and Neno Sartini – constantly urge their fellow Americans to keep the fire of patriotism burning.
Walsh said three words – Remember Pearl Harbor– were echoed throughout the nation following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, by the Japanese Empire. Americans rallied like no other time in our history, he said.
Sartini was 11 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He remembers his brother, John, who turned 17 on that very day.
He ran out of the house and tried to join the Navy, Sartini recalled.
Walsh and Sartini don't see that same level of spirit today.
It's very contagious among older people – it should be for everybody, said Sartini, 82, a retired Air Force master sergeant who served in Korea and Vietnam. We can't allow them to fade away to nothing, he said.
Survivors Club, Kingston American Legion Post 395, 386 Wyoming Ave., 5 p.m.
Pearl Harbor Breakfast, Daddow-Isaacs Dallas American Legion Post 672, Dec. 8; for more information call Clarence J. Michael at 675-0488.
Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered all U.S. and Pennsylvania flags in the Capitol Complex and at commonwealth facilities statewide to fly at half-staff today in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
The Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 Americans and led the United States to enter World War II.