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Honor Guard Sgt. Alan Lee, holding a bugle, commands the honor guard to fire one of three volleys in honor of those who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor 82 years ago.
Honor Guard Sgt. Alan Lee, holding a bugle, commands the honor guard to fire one of three volleys in honor of those who lost their lives in Pearl Harbor 82 years ago.

Grand Island VFW post holds annual Pearl Harbor remembrance service

Sat, Dec 23rd 2023 06:55 am

Story and Photo by Alice Gerard

Senior Contributing Writer

For Alan Lee, serving as the sergeant of the honor guard at Charles N. DeGlopper 9249 Memorial VFW is an honor and a way to give back.

On Dec. 7, the VFW held a service in remembrance of the 2,403 people killed and the 1,178 injured during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that resulted in the U.S. entry into World War II in 1941. Eighty-two years later, just 26 survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack, who bore witness to the events of that day, still remain alive. The youngest is now 99 years old.

“There’s a lot that we all have to be thankful for. Part of it was the people who fought there. We need to remember those who went before us,” Lee said.

Town Highway Superintendent Richard Crawford said, “As the president said on the day, it’s a day of infamy. It’s a day to show respect for the men and women who lost their lives on that fateful day. Our country suffered a huge loss. It’s paying respect to those men and women for their sacrifice, and for the sacrifice of other veterans who have given their lives in other conflicts, and making sure that we don’t forget.”

Town Supervisor-elect Peter Marston, who spoke at the commemoration, said, “I think it’s really important that the VFW celebrates all these events and memorializes them yearly, not just this one, but 9/11 day and everything else. I very much appreciate their efforts.”

Ray DeGlopper, commander of American Legion Post 1346, said, “I’m here because it’s my duty to be here, and I think it’s important to be here. I think it shows a little respect for the people back then.”

Lee, who is a Vietnam veteran, said he joined the U.S. Army in 1968 and served for three years as an airplane mechanic.

“It was the time of the draft,” Lee said. “We were getting notices that they were probably getting close to me for the draft. When they draft you, you’re going to take the aptitude test. In my basic training company, all the draftees, except for two, went to infantry school. That means they were going to be out on the ground. The other two went to cook school. My father was a flight instructor during World War II. I went to the Air Force, and I went to the Navy. I said, ‘If I enlist and both of them was a four-year enlistment, can I get the job that I want?’ Both of them said, ‘Whatever you’re good at, that’s what you’re going to do.’

“So, I went to the Army for a three-year enlistment. ‘If I enlist, can I have the job I want?’ ‘If you score high enough in the aptitude for the job you want, you can have it.’

“While I was in Vietnam, I had a chance to fly. My first trip or two, they put me in the right side of the helicopter as a door gunner. They put me in at the left door as the door gunner over there, but I was the crew chief. I was the enlisted crew member. I would say most of the people who became mechanics in the military, if there’s a place for enlisted people on the plane or the aircraft, you want to be there. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Lee left the Army in 1974, after serving three years of active duty and three years in the inactive reserve. In the mid-1980s, Lee joined the National Guard.

“You enlist for one year, go to drill 12 weekends once a month, and do one two-week annual training. If you don’t like it, you’re done,” he said. “It was called the ‘try one.’ So, I tried one. Well, I heard that there were enlistment bonuses. Reenlistment bonuses. So I go, ‘I will reenlist for the bonus.’ He goes, ‘You don’t have a permanent slot yet.’ They’re carrying me on the books as excess. He says, ‘What you can do is you can do another ‘try one’ to see if there are bonuses.’ So, now, I’m paying attention.”

Lee said, “At my 10th year, I had to make a decision. I had to leave or take three, four or six years. So, I took the three. I was kind of settled in anyway. The bonuses chased me, a year or two behind me until I just gave up. When I realized I couldn’t do any more ‘try ones,’ I took threes. Ended up doing 22 years, total.”

As the sergeant in charge of the honor guard, Lee described the feelings that he experiences on Pearl Harbor Day and during other events, such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day services.

“It’s tough. It’s really tough. They all are,” he said. “Anytime you do something with honoring veterans, especially those who are deceased. It’s tough for those of us who survived.

“We also do funerals. One gentleman here died, and his funeral was at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church. We would line up on both sides of the sidewalk near the church as they brought the casket in. It was pouring rain. We got soaked. We go into the church for the service. The sun is shining through the windows. We go back out, line up so they can load him into the hearse. Pouring rain.”

Lee talked about how Grand Island’s honor guard is available to assist at other VFW posts.

“A few weeks ago, I got a call from a lady whose father, John Gojmerac, was 99 years old. World War II veteran,” he said. “And he was going to be presented with the French Legion of Honor (on Oct. 20) They were doing it at (Frontiersmen Post 7545 in Tonawanda). They don’t have an honor guard. We took the flags and stood there with the American flag, the POW flag, and our post flag, as part of the ceremony. The Legion of Honor is the French version of the Medal of Honor. We went over and did that. The family was so appreciative.

“We had a guy who was a member of the post who got the Legion of Honor. Little Joe. We have a copy of the Legion of Honor on the wall. It’s things like that that make this worthwhile.”

Lee said he was thankful to Island Dispatch and Isledegrande and to “anyone who mentions us, who lets people know we exist and do these things.”

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