DURYEA — The flag was at half-mast, there was a 12-gun salute and Taps was played at the end.
The only thing missing at Monday’s Pearl Harbor Commemorative Ceremony at the Duryea VFW Post 1227 were World War II veterans.
Veterans of World War II are few and far between these days — if still living, they would be in their 90s. But having the ceremony to remember that day in history — Dec. 7, 1941 — remains critically important to all veterans of all wars.
Like Hank Ostrowski, 87 of Pittston, who served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Ostrowski attended the Pearl Harbor ceremony, all decked out in his U.S. Army uniform with his Master Sergeant stripes on the sleeves.
“Yes it is very important to remember that day and to remember all veterans who have served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Ostrowski, who was 13 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. “That was a scary time in our history.”
Ed Tressa of Duryea is the commander of the Swoyersville American Legion Post 644. His father, Joseph Tressa, is 95 and a World War II veteran. He served as a medic in the U.S. Army.
“He would be here if he could,” Ed Tressa said of his father. “We should remember all who died in service to their country and these ceremonies keep their memories alive.”
Ed Tressa, 67, served with the U.S. Marines. He said all veterans should be honored and remembered.
“If it weren’t for our veterans, where would we be?” he asked.
Larry Stella was sitting across the table from Tressa and he answered the question.
“We wouldn’t be speaking English, that’s for sure,” said Stella, a retired U.S. Air Force reservist.
Larry’s wife, Kathy, said a lot of young people aren’t aware of what went on during World War II and other wars.
Marcie Stella, whose husband, Dan, is the commander at the Duryea VFW, said ceremonies like Monday’s should always be held.
“So people don’t forget,” she said.
Dan Stella presided over the annual ceremony, which this year commemorated the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Stella noted that the attack claimed the lives of more than 2,400 people, wounded 1,000 more and damaged or destroyed nearly 20 American ships and more than 300 airplanes.
Stella presented a flag that has flown over the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. The flag was hoisted and flown at half mast after the ceremony.
“Pearl Harbor changed the face of our nation,” Stella said. “It was a tragic event, but it brought the country together. It resulted in the U.S. becoming a super power.”
Stella is with the Army National Guard 55th Armored Brigade Combat Team. He was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2 and 3.
The VFW sits in the middle of a quiet neighborhood on Stephenson Street and the ceremony was held as vehicles passed and neighbors walked their dogs.
“Dec. 7, 1941, changed the course of history,” Stella said. “The attack on Pearl Harbor awakened a sleeping giant. It was a day of great tragedy, yet it ignited a sense of national pride.”
Stella remembered all veterans of all wars for their devotion to duty, their bravery and their sacrifice.
“I wish we could see some World War II veterans here,” he said. “We should always remember and forever thank them for their service.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.