FORT WORTH, Texas (NNS) -- Capt. Mike Steffen, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base commanding officer, spoke to service members, Department of Defense civilians and their families, Dec. 7, at a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"The attackers bore witness to the audacity shown on December 7, as personified by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto when he eerily pronounced, 'I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve,'" said Steffen. "The attack on Pearl Harbor not only left the Navy heavily damaged; it left our nation's morale devastated. Our Sailors and Marines found themselves on the losing end, or stalemate at best, in most engagements for six months after the attack."
Steffen spoke more on the various battles throughout the war before introducing guest speaker, former Marine Cpl. Don Graves.
"It's not every day that we are blessed with the presence of someone who was there, from a young man eager to serve his country to a combat veteran who helped secure the hallowed Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima," said Steffen.
At 16 years old, Graves was with his family listening to his favorite big band swing music when the announcer interrupted the program for a special announcement from the president of the United States.
"It was the greatest speech I ever heard in my life," said Graves. "I said to my buddies, 'I better join the Corps. My dad was in the 6th Marines [Regiment] in the first war.'"
After turning 17, Graves convinced his mother to sign the paperwork to join the Marine Corps.
"After I said goodbye to my family, my recruiter said to me and the rest of the boys shipping off, 'Now I want you men to know something; you don't belong to those people anymore. You belong to me, and you belong to the United States Marine Corps and you're never going to forget it,'" said Graves. "I'm 91 years old and I have never forgotten it."
On Iwo Jima, Graves' regiment was 560 feet away from the base of Mount Suribachi and it took three days to make that distance.
"It was a hand grenade fight back and forth for three nights," said Graves. "We used to have a habit of throwing the grenades quick, and they would throw them back at us, and their grenades blew up much faster so they would blow up before we had a chance to throw them back."
Before leaving for the transport ships, Graves' Marine Capt. Liversedge, later known as Brig. Gen. Harry "The Horse" Liversedge, told Graves and the rest of the regiment to stop by the gravesite to say goodbye to their brothers-in-arms.
"There was a K-Ration box turned inside out and tacked on a post," said Graves. "Inside was written 'Fellas, when you go home, tell the folks we did our best, so that they may have many more tomorrows.' That was hard to take, and we broke down."
For more information on the 75th Pearl Harbor Commemoration or the Battle of Iwo Jima, visit http://www.navy.mil/.
For more news from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/nasfortworthjrb/.