WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- There is a certain connection members of the military share. But what some World War II veterans went through on December 7, 1941, nothing can compare.
“There was an explosion outside my window," explained Jay C. Groff, Jr. of Virginia.
Groff was stationed at Pearl Harbor 75 years ago. He was lying in bed when the Japanese attacked. He ran to a ball field to set up machine guns when two Japanese planes flew overhead.
“I picked up a rock and threw it at one of them. It didn’t do any good, but it made me feel a lot better," said Groff.
“You were trained to do a job, and I was trying to do that job," said Harold Mainer of Arkansas.
Mainer was on the U.S.S. Helena and was supposed to head to shore to meet with friends. Instead, he spent the day trying to stay alive.
“That guy over there, he’s fighting to save his life and yours too. That’s what we were thinking about – trying to take care of each other," he explained.
These Pearl Harbor survivors, and other veterans, were honored Wednesday at a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial.
The memorial is just one place visitors to our nation’s capital can go to remember the Pearl Harbor attack. Artifacts big and small from that fateful day are on display throughout the Smithsonian Institution.
The Japanese fighter planes were called “Zeros.” One of them is one display at the Air and Space Museum.
At the National Postal Museum, the artifacts in its collection are frozen in time. They include a stamp from the mailroom of the U.S.S. Oklahoma never made it past December 6th. There's also a letter from Marine John Rion to his business partner in Perry, Iowa. It is postmarked at 8 a.m. December 7th, just as the attack began.
On this 75th anniversary of that date that will live in infamy, Mainer and Groff explained why it’s so important Americans stop to remember Pearl Harbor.
“So it won’t happen again," said Mainer.
“Stay alert. Stay alert," said Groff.
For more information about the 75th anniversary commemoration of Pearl Harbor at the National World War II Memorial, click on the link on the top-right side of this story.