Pearl Harbor remembered at holiday tree lighting
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | December 08,2012
BENNINGTON — About 70 people came to a tree lighting at the Vermont Veterans Home on a drizzly Friday evening where they heard music, shared cookies with Santa Claus, and spent a few minutes remembering the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
The tree, decorated with white lights, is outside the home near Route 7A. Melissa Jackson, administrator of the home, said the tree was chosen so it could be seen by residents of the home as well as the people of Bennington, making it a community tree.
Calling for a moment of silence, Joseph Krawczyk Jr., chairman of the Bennington Select Board and president of the board of trustees of the veterans home, started the tribute to victims of the surprise attack by the Japanese on an American naval base in Hawaii that led to the United States’ entering the Second World War.
Don Keelan, a retired Marine, talked about the moment before Vermont became part of World War II.
“This morning, I wondered what must have been going on among the residents of Bennington on Dec. 6, 1941. It was a Saturday. It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas and little did they know that within 24 hours, their Bennington, their state and their country were to be changed forever and so would they and all because of an event that was to take place the following morning halfway around the world,” he said.
Keelan described the attack by more than 350 Japanese Navy planes that killed about 2,400 Americans, including military personnel and civilians, and wounded more than 1,300 others.
The attack sunk or badly damaged eight U.S. Navy battleships along with eight other vessels, and more than 200 aircraft destroyed.
Keelan said the lesson he took from those events was the principle of “never give up and determination, no matter how desperate the situation might be.”
“Seventy-one years ago, Americans were determined to rebuild, join in a common cause and defeat the enemies of America. It is that determination and spirit that we need to capture today and embrace in order for us to overcome the challenges we face as a town, as a state and as a country,” he said.
Keelan also reminded the audience that five years ago, Dec. 6, 2007, a group of volunteers, including Keelan, delivered the U.S. Capitol tree to Washington, D.C.
The lighting was a historic first for the town, according to Krawczyk.
“I want to welcome you to the first official, annual, communitywide tree lighting ceremony held here at the Vermont Veterans Home. For a number of years, the town of Bennington has been looking for a place to do it. We’ve done it at Merchants Bank, we’ve done it at the Harte (lot on Main Street), we’ve done it in front of Town Hall, but I personally think we’ve found the perfect spot for it right here,” said Krawczyk, a retired Army colonel.
Willy Rimany, a resident of the home who served in the U.S. Army, said it was nice to have so many visitors at the home and the tree.
“It certainly is a beautiful sight alongside of all the flags and the notion that the flags remind us of,” he said.
Lynn Sweet led members of the Mount Anthony Union High School chorus and Marjorie Rooen directed members of the high school’s band in performing holiday favorites. A color guard was provided by the American Legion’s Post 13 and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1332.
The tree will be lit through the holidays, Jackson said.