VIDEO, PHOTOS & STORY -- The memorial is a joint effort of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club, the Town of Smyrna, state officials and local contractors with funding from the state, the motorcycle club and the Delaware State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Multiple generations of veterans gathered with government leaders and citizens for the Pearl Harbor Memorial dedication at Lake Como in Smyrna today, Dec. 7, on the anniversary of the 1941 attack that brought America into World War II.
The memorial is a joint effort of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club, the Town of Smyrna, state officials and local contractors. Ground was broken Aug. 10 with funding from the state, the motorcycle club and the Delaware State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
The memorial includes an anchor from a 1942 U.S. Navy destroyer and a stone marker with an image of the attack on Pearl Harbor's "battleship row" with the words:
"In memory of those who perished December 7th, 1941," with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote, "A date which will live in infamy," and VVA's national logo, "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."
The donation of the anchor from the Military Sealift Command was arranged by Delaware Military Academy co-founder, retired Navy Command Master Chief Charles Baldwin.
Baldwin and his family, including his son who serves in the Navy and his grandson and great niece, both in high school Navy Junior ROTC programs, were given the honor of unveiling the monument.
The construction of the memorial was organized by Terry Baker, a Life Member of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Motorcycle Club, who said he thought the veterans "should put something up bigger and a little better" than placing wreaths in the water at the annual Pearl Harbor ceremony at Lake Como.
"I personally want to thank [the Vietnam Vets Legacy Motorcycle Club] for allowing me to say that I saw what we needed to do in my head and having faith in me," Baker said. "It is a great honor that my brothers had that faith in me to allow us to do this."
Baker said he wanted to thank everyone who helped with the project "from the bottom of my heart."
Smyrna Mayor John Embert thanked everyone who attended the "momentous occasion."
"The town is very glad Terry and his group contacted us to be a part of this and to have this monument here from this day forward forever to honor the people [who died] Dec. 7," said Embert.
Paul Davis, president of the Delaware State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America, congratulated everyone who played a part in planning, funding and building the memorial.
"It was an honor to be part of this," said Davis. "This was quite a process, and the thing I’m really, really happy about is I couldn’t imagine a better group of people to work with than the city of Smyrna, the town council, the mayor, absolutely everybody -- the city manager, the residents of Smyrna. You people in Smyrna, you’ve got it together. You’re very patriotic."
On behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Davis said, "Particularly I want to thank the Vietnam Legacy Motorcycle group. You guys are fantastic. You worked hard on this. Terry worked hard. God bless all of you guys and God bless America."
The keynote speaker at the dedication was retired Navy Capt. Robert E. Clark II, who became president of Wesley College in Dover after 32 years of distinguished service in the United States Navy’s Submarine Force, including service as the 84th Commandant of Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy. Clark held command at all levels of the Submarine Force during the Cold War, including Commanding Officer of the USS Connecticut and Commodore of Submarine Squadron Four.
Clark said as he looked out across the veterans attending the ceremony, "I see my heroes. I see the fire and passion of perseverance and service to country that inspired me to wear the uniform of my country and carry on in your legacy. My fathers and heroes, I thank and salute every one of you for giving the gift of service to our great country."
He said the ceremony is a solemn time "to reflect on an attack that happened many, many years ago, but it’s important to learn from our past...and to honor today our brothers and sisters in arms from a previous generation."
"On that day when our nation was attacked and our sons and daughters heard the call to arms and faithfully manned their watch, their duty stations, not because it was something they had to do to draw a paycheck...they did it out of sense of honor and duty to their country," said Clark.
He said their blood provided the flag we sleep under in peace today.
"Today we reflect on those who gave the ultimate sacrifice 70-plus years ago and today we celebrate and embrace those families who continue to give the ultimate sacrifice today and unfortunately in the future we will continue to honor those brave Americans who give the ultimate sacrifice," he said. "Those who want peace must prepare for war."
He asked everyone "to reflect on the freedoms we have, the peace we live under, and really understand, that we owe our lives, we owe our country and we owe our future to folks who gave the ultimate sacrifice."
Smyrna American Legion Post 14 Commander Vince DiDonato said the Pearl Harbor Memorial is important "so this generation and generations after will never forget what the greatest generation went through."
DiDonato said his father served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and his mother worked at a Marine Corps supply depot.
Frank Oakman, state president of the Vietnam Vets Legacy Motorcycle Club gave special thanks to the members of the club who contributed to the memorial and to the following:
Mayor and Town Council of Smyrna,
Mumford and Miller Concrete,
Al Klerlein and Eagle Erectors,
Skip Jones and Atlantic Concrete,
Color Works Painting,
Vietnam Veterans of America State Council,
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 83,
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850,
American Legion Stahl Post 30,
American Legion Post 14,
Purple Heart Chapter 703,
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 838,
Sen. Bruce Ennis, Sen. Trey Paradee, Rep. Bill Carson and the state of Delaware,
Kent County Levy Court and President Brooks Banta,
James and Kevin Mood,
APGAR Turf Farm of Smyrna.