Pearl Harbor Survivor Leads Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade

Story Number: NNS160523-26Release Date: 5/23/2016 3:53:00 PM
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By Lisa Woodbury Rama, Naval Station Newport Public Affairs

BELLINGHAM, Mass. (NNS) -- "I want to emphasize how lucky we are to live each day and how fortunate we are to live in this country and not overseas. I'm 95 years old and that's my message," said Lt. j.g. Gerald Halterman, at the 145th annual Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony in Bellingham, Massachusetts.

"I've lived a good life and a lot of it comes from trying to live and trying to do the right thing," Halterman said.

Then a yeoman, Gerald Halterman was a communications officer in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii aboard USS Oklahoma (BB-37).

While ashore on duty the night of December 6-7, 1941, he received a message that USS Ward (DD-139) had been fired on, and shortly thereafter low-flying planes appeared.

Halterman transmitted the first radio message about the attack. He was awarded the Pearl Harbor Medal.

Halterman recalls that day in great detail -- the noise, the smoke and the oil-soaked Sailors. 429 of his shipmates on Oklahoma were lost that day.

He remained at Pearl Harbor through April 1943, when he was chosen for officer training and sent to St. Ambrose College in Iowa. After the war he joined the Naval Reserve and went to Amherst College on the GI bill.

Capt. Dennis R.D. Boyer, commanding officer of Naval Station Newport was the special guest speaker at the ceremony following the mile-long parade. Halterman served as the Parade Grand Marshal.

Boyer paid special recognition to his shipmate while addressing the crowd gathered by the gazebo on the Town Commons.

"I consider myself quite a history buff, and having the opportunity to participate with a fellow naval officer who survived Pearl Harbor is a privilege indeed," said Boyer. "Lt. Halterman, sir, thank you for your service to our nation -- those of us who serve today are indebted to all of those who came before us and we do not forget it."

Boyer went on to say, "A key component of our nation's greatness lies in our ability to honor, appreciate, and cherish -- through our actions and our memories -- all those who died to ensure our freedom."

"We often hear that freedom has a price and that each generation pays its due," added Boyer. "Memorial Day is our day to say 'thank you' to those who for generations have foot the bill; to those, like the shipmates of Lt. Halterman in Pearl Harbor and throughout our history, have paid so dearly -- with their lives. And to their families and friends whose lives are forever changed, [to them] we owe an enormous debt."

The Bellingham event was the first of many Memorial Day events Naval Station Newport personnel will be participating in over the upcoming holiday weekend.

Naval Station Newport is the Navy's Center of Excellence for Officer and Senior Enlisted Education and Training and is home to such prestigious institutions as the Naval War College; Naval Justice School; Surface Warfare Officer's School, Navy Supply Corps School and U.S. Navy Senior Enlisted Academy.

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