MAYPORT, Fla. (NNS) -- More than 200 veterans and guests gathered aboard USS Underwood (FFG 36) Dec. 7 to honor and remember those who lost their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago.
Mayport's Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) Branch 290 has hosted the annual memorial service in conjunction with Naval Station Mayport since 1966.
"We have gathered here in tribute and respect to the earthly memories of those heroes on the sea, under the sea, in the air and upon the land who are now serving on the staff of the Supreme Commander," said Rick Kiger, president of FRA 290.
Underwood's crew stood proudly in ranks as special guest speaker Duane Reyelts, a Pearl Harbor survivor who served aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37), recounted his memories of Dec. 7, 1941.
The St. Augustine survivor was only 20 years old when the attack on his ship and the harbor thrust the United States into World War II.
As he looked back on the events that day, Reyelts said "Being young at that time, I wondered how I knew enough to do what I did to escape. But a lot of them didn't, and I think of them."
"I was still in my bunk when the ship was hit," said Reyelts. "At 7:55 in the morning the general quarters buzzer sounded and I didn't even grab my clothes. I rushed to get to my battle station, which was all the way forward on the second deck."
The Oklahoma was hit several times causing her to capsize and sink taking 429 members of the crew down with her.
More than 2,000 people were killed that day to include civilians and the 1,177 service members who died on USS Arizona (BB-39).
Chief Boatswain's Mate (SW) Jeremy Doughtry, assigned to Underwood, said he is "proud and honored to be in the presence of such great men."
"When I think about what these men went through back then I get really choked up. Seeing how much joy they have in their eyes when they come on board, back in the presence of their shipmates, is truly a memorable experience," said Doughtry.
The ship's observance of Pearl Harbor Day also included remarks by Lt. Gov. of Florida, Jennifer Carroll, a U.S. Navy retiree, a wreath laying ceremony and a gun salute.
"I thank those who are serving and who have served, and God bless this great nation," said Carroll, who had also served at Pearl Harbor during her naval career.
The ceremony concluded in prayer with heads bowed.
"Though our heads are bowed in sorrow for the loss of our shipmates, there is pride in our hearts for the many things they did to keep the record of our country untarnished and undefeated," said Kiger.
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