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Mon-Yough area prepares to mark Pearl Harbor attack

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 3:47 a.m.

Homeland security in modern times will be a topic Friday as Mon-Yough veterans mark the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

West Mifflin Area High School 1993 graduate Brady K. O'Hanlon, a chief of training and exercise for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, will be the featured speaker at the commemoration scheduled for 12:55 p.m. at O'Hanlon's alma mater.

That's 7:55 a.m. in Hawaii, the exact moment that Japanese bombs began to fall 71 years ago.

O'Hanlon lives in King George, Va., but his parents still live in Whitaker. O'Hanlon's grandfather served as a member of the Army Air Corps during World War II, and his father served two tours in Vietnam.

O'Hanlon's older brother is an Army major serving as a strategic intelligence officer in the Army Cyber Command, while a younger brother graduated with honors in Arabic Languages from the Defense Language Institute, and his youngest brother was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge during a tour of duty in Afghanistan.

At 1 p.m., McKeesport Amvets Post 8 will hold its commemoration of Pearl Harbor at the Palisades.

“Help us to remember the brave servicemen who died on that day of infamy,” First Vice Commander Mike Egenlauf said in announcing the event.

It will be followed by a spaghetti dinner at the Amvets club in the former Bowman club location, 100 Lawrence Ave., McKeesport.

There is a pall over both events with the passing of the last Mon-Yough survivors of Pearl Harbor, Bernard Ordos and Art Nagy. Both died earlier this year.

Two other survivors of the attack on Oahu are scheduled to attend the West Mifflin event.

Pearson Harkema, a 1939 graduate of Monessen High School and a lifelong resident of Monessen, served as a fire controlman first class on the battleship USS Oklahoma.

Harkema jumped into oil-soaked, flaming water but was rescued, recovered from his wounds and went on to serve during World War II aboard the USS Northampton, a heavy cruiser, and the battleship USS Indiana.

Felix Scocchera was born in Homestead and lived much of his life in Monroeville.

He joined the Army Air Corps in 1939 and was stationed at Wheeler Field near Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The event in the high school auditorium has been sponsored since 1991 by West Mifflin Veterans of Foreign Wars Intrepid Post 914 and is co-sponsored by American Merchant Marine Veterans of the Mon Valley.

The West Mifflin Area High School Titan Thunder Marching Band, Air Force Junior ROTC Honor Guard and school chorale groups will participate.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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