ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- Naval History and Heritage Command's (NHHC) two youngest Sailors honored the veterans of the attack on Pearl Harbor with a wreath laying ceremony, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns, Dec. 7.
Information Systems Technician Seaman Yesenia Munoz, a native of Houston, Texas, and Yeoman 3rd Class Victoria Ruiz, a Hacienda Heights, Calif. native, were well aware of the importance of honoring those who were there on what President Franklin D. Roosevelt described as "a date which will live in infamy."
Though both were apprehensive about rendering the honors in front of a large crowd, they both were proud of the distinction of being able to memorialize the event.
"At first I was nervous when I found out how many people would be here," Munoz said of the wreath laying. "After that, I was excited to be a part of this ceremony. I just wanted to do everything correctly and show everyone how much of a blessing it is to have been chosen for this great opportunity. "
"The thought of being in front, did make me nervous," Ruiz agreed. "I understand the importance of the ceremony and know that the audience is visiting from various corners of the country and world"
Both Sailors realize that it is important to mark important moments in the history of the Navy and the nation.
"By participating in remembrance ceremonies, we are honoring the lives that were lost in the line of duty and what they died for by keeping their memories alive in our hearts," said Ruiz. "I believe it helps us remember why we serve our country and that freedom is not free."
"It helps us to be proud of our jobs and understand the heritage of what we do every day as service members and to remember those who gave their lives in defense of the Nation," Munoz added.
Ruiz and U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Nicklaus Tollmeo watched solemnly as Munoz and U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Saddique Stevens laid the wreath, sponsored by the Naval Order of the United States, then they all saluted those who had made the ultimate sacrifice, as the crowd remained hushed in respect for the moment and the tomb.
Munoz and Ruiz were proud to represent their command and their service at such an auspicious event.
"I've never done anything like this before," Munoz said. "I am very honored and proud to have been chosen. I am happy i got to do it and I enjoyed it."
"I'm blessed to represent NHHC at this event,' Ruiz agreed. "Not many individuals get an opportunity to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. I was intimidated at first, and then I felt very honored. It being on a day of remembrance for the attack on Pearl Harbor makes it an even more special event."
It was 6 a.m. on Dec. 7, 1941, when six Japanese carriers launched a first wave of 181 planes composed of torpedo bombers, dive bombers, horizontal bombers and fighters towards Hawaii. The Japanese aircrews achieved complete surprise when they hit American ships and military installations on Oahu shortly before 8 a.m. More than 90 ships were anchored in Pearl Harbor, but the Japanese's primary targets were the eight battleships anchored there. Seven were moored on Battleship Row along the southeast shore of Ford Island while the USS Pennsylvania (BB 38) lay in dry dock across the channel.
When the attack ended shortly before 10 a.m., less than two hours after it began, the American forces paid a heavy price. Twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged, 188 aircraft destroyed and 159 damaged, the majority hit before they had a chance to take off. American dead numbered more than 2,000 with more than 1,000 military and civilian wounded. The attack which horrified a nation was the catalyst that brought America into World War II.
The Naval History and Heritage Command, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. Naval history and heritage. It is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy history, nine museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
The Naval Order of the United States was founded in 1890 by descendants of New England seafarers who fought in the Revolutionary War. The Order's charge is to encourage research and writing on naval and maritime subjects and to promote the preservation of historic artifacts and memories of naval and maritime history.
For more information on the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor visit the Naval History and Heritage Command Website at www.history.navy.mil
For more news from Naval History and Heritage Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navhist/.