By Brandon Bosworth, Assistant Editor, Ho`okele
The Pearl Harbor Colors for February was held Feb. 26 at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center. Pearl Harbor Colors is a monthly military ceremony open to the public. It is an opportunity for local residents and international visitors to witness a U.S. military ceremony and meet veterans, service members and their families.
“Through Pearl Harbor Colors, we honor our history and heritage, build relationships with our partners and the surrounding community, and recognize the dedication and hard work of our service members and their families in a committed and sustainable way,” said Rear Adm. Rick Williams, commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific.
The theme for this month’s event was “African American History and Heritage in the United States Navy.” Sponsored by Navy Region Hawaii in coordination with the National Park Service, the ceremony featured the U.S. Pacific Fleet Band, the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Honors and Ceremonies Guard, and an official observance of “morning colors,” with remarks by Capt. Stanley Keeve, commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Today, in observance of African American History Month, we honor those who have proudly served this great country, to pay tribute to our veterans, past and present, who have dedicated their lives and sacrificed so much in defense of freedom,” said Keeve.
“African Americans have demonstrated honor, courage and commitment in all of our nation’s conflicts. The diversity in our military is a reflection of what makes this country so great. Today you see both men and women proudly serving from different nationalities, races, religions and sexual orientation.”
Keeve told the story of Messman 3rd Class Doris “Dorie” Miller, who was serving at Pearl Harbor aboard the USS West Virginia on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
“While at the side of Capt. Bennion on the bridge, Petty Officer Miller, in the face of scathing fire, assisted in moving his skipper to a place of greater safety and later manned and operated a machine gun directed at enemy attacking aircraft until ordered to leave the bridge,” said Keeve. “His bravery was a catalyst of the American spirit that would lead us to victory in WWII and, as a result of his actions, he became the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross, the third highest honor awarded by the U.S. Navy at the time.”
Among those attending the event was retired Army Sgt. John H. Mack Sr., a Vietnam veteran visiting from New York who served in the 101st Airborne Division.
“I thought it was excellent,” he said of the ceremony. “It was a beautiful service to honor our veterans. It’s great that you honor everyone’s heritage and perspective. If everyone respected each other and tried to understand each other and took it to heart, the world would be more peaceful.”
Mack looks forward to future Pearl Harbor Colors ceremonies.
“We’ll be coming back to Pearl Harbor every year now until we move here,” Mack said.