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West Mifflin event recalls fateful day at Pearl Harbor

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Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010

Veterans were honored at a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day ceremony at West Mifflin Area High School.

The event, which got under way in the high school auditorium at 12:55 p.m. on Tuesday, the precise minute of the 69th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the American naval base in Hawaii that caused the United States to enter World War II, drew local veterans from all branches of the military.

Honored specially in the ceremony were two local survivors of the attack, Bernard Ordos of VFW Intrepid Post 914 and Pearson Harkema, who served on the USS Oklahoma.

The Rev. John B. Lendvai of Holy Spirit Roman Catholic Church in West Mifflin asked God to protect the nation and its military in his invocation at the onset of the event.

“We ask you to watch over this gathering, watch over this country. May we always be worthy of those freedoms, those sacrifices that so many men and women have made for us in these past 200 years. Most especially 69 years ago today,” Lendvai said.

The ceremony, which has been sponsored by Intrepid Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 since 1991 and is co-sponsored by the Mon Valley chapter of American Merchant Marine Veterans, included music by West Mifflin Area High School wind ensemble and chorus.

Student musician Chelsea Taylor was featured trumpeter in the playing of Taps.

The high school's Air Force Junior ROTC program, under the direction of Maj. Scott R. Harbula and Master Sgt. Oreste DiCerbo, presented the advancing of the colors for the event.

Guest speaker Naval Commander Sam Pennington said events like the one in West Mifflin remembering Pearl Harbor “are very significant.” He drew special attention to attending survivors Ordos and Harkema.

“The reason we get together for events like these is to celebrate our heroes, who not only survived a horrific experience 69 years ago today but they persevered and they overcame tremendous hardships and triumphed over those who brought violence against our nation,” Pennington said.

He also noted the many who didn't survive the attack.

“We're here to remember their sacrifices and rejoice in the gift that they gave to us to ensure our generation's freedom,” he said. “We need to remember the heroes of World War II who sacrificed so much for us all so we live the life that we have today.”

State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, noted that while the attack on Pearl Harbor was devastating, “it did not destroy us.”

Kortz told students participating in the ceremony to consider the great sacrifices made during World War II.

“We must never forget that,” he said. “The lesson learned from Pearl Harbor is this: We must always be vigilant. We must always be ready.”

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