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“From Innocence to Valor,” World War II Veterans Return to Pearl Harbor

The Greatest Generations Foundation, along with Air Compassion for Veterans and American Airlines are sponsoring a trip for World War II Veterans to return to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to commemorate the sacrifices and the history made on that day.

 
PRLog - Dec. 6, 2012 - DENVER -- Denver, CO – December 6, 2012 – When the World focus’s its attention once again to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in observance of the 71st Anniversary of the Japanese attack on America, a group of veterans, who were present there on December 7th in 1941, will perhaps be making their final return to the island. For many veterans, this will be an emotional first time back.  

The Greatest Generations Foundation, along with Air Compassion for Veterans and American Airlines, will be sponsoring this trip to commemorate the sacrifices and the history of the “day that will live in infamy.”

The returning veterans will be honored guests at the international “From Innocence to Valor” commemoration ceremony on the USS Arizona Memorial, and they will be participants at a ceremony in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. These ceremonies are to pay tribute to those who perished during the attack.

One of the returning veterans, Paul Kennedy, age 92, served in the US Navy aboard the gunboat USS Sacramento. On the morning of December 7, 1941, Kennedy woke to a blaring alarm, but figured it was just another drill. Then his friend shook him awake, screaming, “Come on, Paul! They are bombing the hell out of us. Get your gas mask and your helmet. Get to your battle station!”

Scrambling above deck, Kennedy observed the blue skies filled with Japanese planes. A torpedo plane flew twenty feet above his head, turning ominously toward the battleship USS Oklahoma. Kennedy witnessed the torpedo plummet into the Oklahoma, causing the battleship to rock into the air.

“There were three men on that side of the Oklahoma, that were standing right above where the torpedo hit,” he said. “They went flying up in the air like rag dolls, and back down into the water…dead.”

With the element of complete surprise on their side, more than 350 Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, sinking or destroying numerous battleships and other vessels. In the attack, 2,402 Americans perished while an additional 1,247 were wounded. More than 300 aircrafts were destroyed or damaged.

“I saw guys in the water swimming for their life,” said Kennedy. “Black oil poured into the bay, coating the water with six inches of oil. The top of the water was on fire from all the burning oil. There were 45-50 guys in their white uniforms floating face down in the water, their white uniforms covered in red blood and dark black oil. Some of their bodies were burning. Motorboats would go get a boatload of dead men, and some live guys, and the planes would come down and strafe them. We were absolutely defenseless. That still bothers me today.”

Despite his horrifying experiences during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kennedy embodies the timeless spirit of American patriotism, and dedication to the preservation of our freedom.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat,” he said. “It was my duty and an absolute privilege. I’m an American, and I love my country. I’ll do whatever it takes to defend it.

Thanks to the continued support of American Airlines and Air Compassion for Veterans, Kennedy will be able to return to Pearl Harbor with his fellow veterans to mark this significant day in American history.

“American Airlines is glad to have this opportunity to honor these heroes among our Greatest Generations,” said Captain Jim Palmersheim, Managing Director – Veterans Initiatives for American Airlines.  

“These veterans are a rapidly diminishing national treasure, so we also feel some urgency about the importance of thanking these individuals for their service and sacrifice, which have made possible the freedoms we enjoy today. It is a privilege to provide transportation for this mission, and we are proud that American’s employee-driven fuel-savings initiative has helped make this trip possible via our partnership with Air Compassion for Veterans.”

Timothy Davis, President of The Greatest Generations Foundation explains, “We could not be happier to have the backing of American Airlines and Air Compassion for Veterans for this program. It is great to see a major airline stepping up to honor our veterans by facilitating programs to preserve their stories.”

About Air Compassion for Veterans ®

The mission and purpose of Air Compassion For Veterans is to ensure that no financially-stressed and wounded warrior / veteran / active duty military person or their family member(s) is denied access to distant specialized medical evaluation, diagnosis, treatment or rehabilitation for lack of a means of long-distance medical air transportation. ACV is committed to the ongoing healing process of our wounded warriors and will provide transport for activities that aid in the process as long as needed. www.aircompassionforveterans.org

About American Airlines ®

American Airlines, Inc. (AA) is the world's largest airline in passenger miles transported and operating revenues. American Airlines is a subsidiary of the AMR Corporation and is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, adjacent to its largest hub at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. http://aa.com/restructuring

About The Greatest Generations Foundation ®

The Greatest Generations Foundation (TGGF) is an IRS 501 (C)(3) organization dedicated to honoring the sacrifices of veterans and ensuring that their legacies are recorded and retold in perpetuity to future generations. www.tggf.org

For more information on the 71st Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, please contact Lindsay Kennedy at The Greatest Generations Foundation info@tggf.org or call 303.331.1944

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