Exactly 72 years after America lost 2,335 servicemen and 68 civilians at Pearl Harbor, Cub Scout pack #555, led by Greg Smith, honor the fallen with a flag ceremony at Main Bird Park in Birdsboro.
The day opened with the previous day’s clouds just beginning to flee to the horizon. The muddy ground sucked in the shoes of the early risers, which included six bundled-up scouts and their parents. Smith talked to them briefly about the history of Pearl Harbor and asked if they had done their homework and read or watched anything about the attack before today. Most had done so and a discussion followed about what they knew.
After the discussion, Smith explained the importance of the flag ceremony to the scouts. He set up a step-ladder to allow one of the boys, Dylan Smith, to slowly lower the flag.
The boys were all sent off with instructions to be back at 4 p.m. for the public flag ceremony and memorial.
The afternoon memorial began to the backdrop of children shrieking with carefree delight on a nearby playground. Several dozen people, including veterans, servicemen’s family members, and the widow of a Pearl Harbor survivor gathered around the lowered flag. Members of the local chapter of the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club saluted the flag as the Star-Spangled Banner played.
The cub scouts recounted the events of Pearl Harbor, noting that some of the servicemen responded so quickly to the attack that they were “still in their pajamas.”
The Pearl Harbor Survivors’ Association, founded in 1958, was disbanded in 2011, “at the 70th anniversary ceremony,” due to the age and health of its members. “Today there are less than 3,000 survivors,” read one of the scouts. “That number gets smaller and smaller every day.”
After the scouts’ readings, Jeff Edwards of Pottstown stood beneath the lowered flag, and played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. The wail of the pipes mourned the loss of the fallen the gathered stood in silence.
Smith’s primary motivation in organizing this memorial was to remind a new generation about the importance of Pearl Harbor and the veterans, both fallen and survivors, of that and every other battle. He fears it will be forgotten if memorials such as this stop happening.
When he began planning this memorial, it was really supposed to be “my guys doing a flag ceremony different than the usual one we do every year.” It became more than that as he contacted organizations for veterans, such as the American Legion.
“My grandfather served in Pearl Harbor on the USS Phoenix... He was intensely proud of the service and he made sure we knew about that and kept it going.” Smith used this event to continue that pride.
The realization that “These guys are not going to be around forever and we really need to remember that day” became an even greater reality for Smith after he called several survivors of Pearl Harbor. Several did not answer.
The entire cub scout pack expressed their gratitude toward current and former servicemen and women. “Veterans fight for us and they protect us. They’ll do anything to win a war,” said Gabriel Koementisz.
Jesse Wonderly has an important personal connection to the military: “My grandfather was a navigator. It feels good to be free because of them.”
“They serve our country. They fight for our liberty and freedom,” Jakob Wioskowski explained in the clearest possible way.
On behalf of the entire pack, Greg Smith closed with these words: “So from my guys to you guys, thank you. Thank you for what you’re doing, for what you have done.”