PEARL HARBOR (NNS) -- As Pearl Harbor survivors become fewer in number with the 70th anniversary approaching Dec. 7, one man continues to honor them.
Retired Master Chief Yeoman Jim Taylor, burial-at-sea coordinator for the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, estimates he has conducted internment ceremonies for hundreds of these World War II survivors.
"I've been the only one that has done any of them, I'd say for the last ten years," Taylor said. "I have been privileged to meet hundreds of Pearl Harbor survivors at the various ceremonies that are here and also the ones that live here locally and I just enjoy being with them."
Each service member Taylor inters at the USS Utah and USS Arizona Memorials has a story, and he tells these stories at their ceremonies. In the last few years, Taylor has buried Sailors who served on these ships like Petty Officer 1st Class Jimmy Oberto, Chief Gunner's Mate Raymond Haack and Lt. Wayne P. Maxwell in the presence of family and friends.
"To me, they're heroes," Taylor said. "Anybody and everybody that served in a military uniform are heroes."
Taylor said he believes the full story of Pearl Harbor will never be told, as he learns something new about it each day, and he appreciates his relationship with this special group of people.
"Pearl Harbor was the home port and still is of the finest Navy in the world," Taylor said. "The families are the ones that really should attend that ceremony so they can carry on the legacy of their loved ones who served."
Taylor said this year's ceremony will be especially significant for him, as it could be the last of its kind.
"It's going to be kind of a sad event for me, simply because I won't see these guys again alive," Taylor said. "It is a big deal and unfortunately it's going to be the last visit for an awful, awful lot of Pearl Harbor survivors that are coming for the event. Most of them now are unable to travel because of their physical condition. I'll see them when their families bring them here."
When people ask Taylor why he has done this job for years without pay, he says he is paid "in love."
"I think the reason that they want their ashes scattered in the harbor, in Pearl Harbor in particular, is because their shipmates, their brothers-in-arms were killed that day. The ocean does draw people - it's like family. And they want to be with family when they go. I'm hoping and praying that I can stay healthy enough to keep on doing this until they are all gone."
For more information on the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, visit http://www.pearlharborsurvivor.net/.
In honor of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, additional stories, photos and videos are available at http://www.navy.mil/ph70. The page also contains information about events scheduled for Dec. 7.
Watch a live broadcast of the commemoration at 12:40 p.m. (EST) Dec. 7, on the Pentagon Channel at http://www.pentagonchannel.mil/.
For more news, visit www.navy.mil.