USS Arizona survivors piped aboard, welcomed back

Survivors of the USS Arizona arrive at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Survivors of the USS Arizona arrive at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Story and photo by Brandon Bosworth

Assistant Editor, Ho‘okele

Four Sailors who were serving on the USS Arizona and survived the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor paid a visit on Dec. 2 to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Upon arrival, all four—John Anderson, Louis Conter, Donald Stratton, and Lauren Bruner—were piped aboard and saluted by an honor cordon of volunteers from several branches of the armed services while the Pacific Fleet Band played patriotic music.

Lt. Cmdr. Alex Torres, assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, was the lead volunteer coordinator for the ceremony. It was his second time serving in this capacity.

“I was in charge last year and was asked to do it again this year,” he said. “I feel very privileged.”

Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (SW/AW/EXW) Leszek Romero, also assigned to JBPHH, was the one to actually pipe the Arizona survivors aboard.

“This is an amazing honor,” he said. “These men are definitely part of one of the greatest generations.”

Romero, a native of Honduras who joined the U.S. Navy on Sept. 11, 2001, credits men like the ones being honored for inspiring him to enlist.

U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Laurie Dexter

Lauren F. Bruner, right, survivor of USS Arizona (BB 39), answers questions during a press conference Dec. 2. John D. Anderson, Louis A. Conter and Donald G. Stratton, survivors of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, were also in attendance as part of the USS Arizona Reunion Association’s annual meeting. U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Laurie Dexter

After the ceremony marking their arrival, the four veterans participated in a press conference where they spoke of their experiences and answered questions from the audience. Many people were impressed that four men in their 90s could make such long, exhausting trips, to which Stratton simply replied, “Everybody has to be someplace.”

This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It is also the final year the USS Arizona Reunion Association will hold an official reunion. On Sunday, Dec. 7, the survivors will mark the occasion by holding a ceremony on the USS Arizona Memorial where they will pour a “final toast” to their shipmates.

However, the four survivors were confident that this would not be their final reunion, official or not.

“I don’t think this will be our last one,” said Conter. “We still have some time to go.”

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Category: FeaturedNews