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Pearl Harbor Day commemorated in solemn ceremony on LI

Gideon Sherry, 21, of Farmingdale, right, a Navy

Gideon Sherry, 21, of Farmingdale, right, a Navy reservist, attends the 78th anniversary Pearl Harbor ceremony at the American Airpower Museum in Farmingdale on Saturday. Credit: Danielle Silverman

What does Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day mean today?

Americans' courage and sacrifice at Pearl Harbor were honored at a ceremony Saturday at the air museum in Farmingdale. But for the first time since the museum started honoring those Americans in 2000, no survivor of that day was there.

With no known Pearl Harbor survivor on Long Island, the ceremony commemorating the 78th anniversary of the attack took on a solemn note. Despite that, it drew a few hundred people to the American Airpower Museum, one of its largest crowds, said organizers of the event, which was sponsored by the museum, the Long Island chapter of the Air Force Association and the U.S. Navy. 

Numerous World War II veterans attended and when they were mentioned the audience gave them a standing ovation. A total of 2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 were wounded on Dec. 7, 1941.

Several people talked about the meaning of the day.

Leonard Finz, 95, of Manhasset, a World War II veteran

Finz was a first lieutenant in field artillery in the Philippines. He also defended some 60 American men who were in the stockade there.

"I was only 17 years old," said Finz, a former New York State Supreme Court justice. "It was the first attack on this country. I had to do something for our country."

He added, "Pearl Harbor Day is day in which we have to reflect on such tragedies, and remember all the soldiers and sailors that gave so much for our country."

He added that Americans these days live in two separate worlds — those who are fighting for American freedom and those who benefit from their efforts.

"Here, we are going to football games and eating hot dogs," Finz said. "But we need to understand there are people making sacrifices for them."

Dolores Chiappone of East Meadow, daughter of a Pearl Harbor survivor

Chiappone recalled that her father, Army veteran Michael Montelione, was in the barracks at Pearl Harbor having coffee when he spotted the Japanese planes flying over. The planes were flying so low he could see the face of one pilot, she said.

Her father died in 2014 at age 95, but she continues to attend the ceremony. On Saturday, she wore a button on her lapel with a picture of her father. 

"It was a terrifying day for everyone who was there," she said. "I'm just glad [my father] lived to tell about it. He used to go to Hawaii every five years for the ceremony."

Joe Daly, 73, of Franklin Square, a Vietnam veteran

Every year on Dec. 7, an aircraft takes off from Farmingdale and drops roses in the water by the Statue of Liberty. It's a way to honor those who died during the attack.

On Saturday, Daly tossed the roses out of the plane. 

For him, the lesson of the day revolves around military preparedness.

"We were suddenly attacked and totally unprepared," Daly said. "If we fail to learn the lessons of history, we're doomed to repeat them."

Louis Singer, 94, of Syosset, a World War II veteran

Singer was a storekeeper second-class in the Navy during the war.

"It's one of the saddest days in our country's history," he said. "We lost so many people so quickly. I learned never to back down."

Gideon Sherry, 21, of Farmingdale, a reservist in the Navy

Sherry was wearing his Navy uniform Saturday and serving in the ceremony's color guard. He said Pearl Habor helped shape the culture of the military.

"It's a day to reflect … to remember those who have passed," Sherry said. "It's a day to remember the purpose of our military — to support and defend, and make sure things like that don't happen again."

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