The massive explosion broke the ship in two, and collapsed so many
decks in the forecastle that the forward gun turrets and conning
tower fell thirty feet into her hull. A total loss, the
superstructure and anything salvageable topside was removed, and the
ship was left as a tomb for her lost sailors.
The Memorial was dedicated in 1962,
and over time it has come to commemorate all military personnel
killed in the Pearl Harbor attack.
I visited the
memorial with my wife in May, 2000, and was awestruck by the devastation, and by the sacrifice so many had made. Since I was born in
requested that my retirement flag be flown over the USS Arizona in honor of
twenty years of service to my
country. My request was granted, and that flag was now ready to be
presented to me.
Throughout the ceremony so far, many had not seemed
to notice a young Marine standing at attention to one side of the
room. In typical Marine fashion, SSGT DeGrasse had stood nearly motionless,
cradling the flag that flew over the USS Arizona in his arms. Now he marched
over to stand by the Master of Ceremonies while the USS
Arizona Certificate of Flag Presentation that
accompanied my flag was read.
This was the beginning of a very special
the passing- of-
The first notes of music were heard as the MC began reading the poem
that would accompany the movements of the personnel during the
ceremony. The poem is "Old Glory."
The ceremony symbolizes my progress through the
ranks during my Naval service. The flag represents our country
that I have proudly served,
and this flag from the USS Arizona even more so.
center aisle, a group marched, single-file. They were
arranged from junior to senior in rank towards the front of the room where I
was standing. The most junior person was a Seaman, as I was when
I entered the Navy. Closest to me was a Chief Petty Officer, my
In a slow, deliberate, emotionally-charged
ceremony, the Marine presented the flag to the Seaman after receiving
a slow salute. Once the Seaman had the flag, the Marine
rendered a slow salute to the Seaman. The Seaman did an
about-face. Now a Third Class Petty Officer saluted and
received the flag, then was saluted by the Seaman. In this
manner, the flag was passed on to the Second Class Petty Officer, the
First Class Petty Officer, then the Chief Petty Officer.
Finally, the Chief presented the flag to me. As
I stood there holding it, I bowed my head. The audience
was part of the ceremony, too, but I was really just closing my
eyes tightly for a moment, trying hard to fight back the tears welling up
inside... the emotions were so much stronger than I had imagined. I
shouldn't have worried though - most of my guests had tears in their eyes,
as well. As I stood
there, the presenting group did an about-face and marched away down the aisle,
leaving me standing alone, cradling the flag in my arms as the Marine had done,
close to my heart.
After a few moments, I turned and stepped over to
stand in front of my wife, Gladys. Leaning forward, I presented the flag to her, since everything that is mine is hers as well.
I told her I loved her, then saluted her. It is true that being a
Navy Wife is one of the toughest jobs in the Navy. She deserves all my love,
my respect, and my thanks.
Watch the video of my
in Windows Media Player Format
(Best, 25 MB) or with
(Streaming video - RealPlayer
Basic 5.0 or above is required, available free)
Note: Some historical photographs were found at the
Historical Center website.