PEARL HARBOR –
Hawaii-based service members, veterans, government leaders and civilians attended a ceremony of the 69th anniversary of the end of World War II aboard the Battleship Missouri Memorial Sept. 2.
Now moored on Ford Island, the location where Sailors first witnessed the attack that brought America to war, USS Missouri, serves as a monument and a reminder for the beginning and the end of the WWII for the United States.
On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan officially surrendered as the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed on the wooden decks of the 'Mighty Mo.' Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz, Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu and other world leaders oversaw that historic moment that is remembered today.
At the ceremony, Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier, deputy commander, U. S. Pacific Fleet, served as guest speaker.
"On September 2nd, 1945, right here on these decks, World War II was officially ended," said Girrier. "When you consider the lives lost, the emotional and physical suffering and the damage and destruction left behind - the cost of the war was incalculable. But as the war ended and the world rejoiced, it didn't stay focused on the past, instead it looked to the future with hope and expectation of great things to come."
Girrier spoke of the collaboration between the United States and Japan after the war in an effort to rebuild the world around them and commended constant efforts to improve mutual understanding, respect and a relationship that would lead to vast improvements in technology, economy and reliance on one another.
"Today, the United States has forces forward deployed in Japan as part of our alliance, and that gave us the ability to respond instantly," said Girrier. "And we work and train with the Japan Self Defense Forces continuously as we prepare to confront any possible manmade crisis or natural disaster that may challenge stability and security in this important region. We're there for each other and, just knowing that... is sometimes all that is needed."
He also stressed the importance of cooperation between all nations and strength that these relationships can offer.
"Today, as our world becomes more and more interconnected and interdependent, as we all rely on freedom of the seas for the safe and efficient movement of trade between nations the relationships that we have established with our allies, our partners and our friends are important to all of us," Girrier said.
Girrier also expressed his sincere gratitude to the veterans for their sacrifices, their strength and for the future they secured for the new generations.
One such person, representing today's youth, was Caitlyn Lodovico, a student from Radford High School, who researched and wrote an award winning essay for the Battleship Missouri Memorial September 2nd Essay contest. She was on hand and read her essay to the audience in attendance.
Art Albert, a World War II veteran who served aboard USS Missouri between 1944 and 1947, spoke of his experience of the ceremony and the feeling of standing on the deck plates of his first ship.
"When you come home, how do you feel? Good, right? This is how I feel, I am home," said Albert. "I went through the Korean and Vietnam Wars after I left [USS] Missouri but this is it - I do not care about other [duty stations] - this is my home. "
Albert recalled the men that gathered on decks and guns of the battleship as Gen. MacArthur arrived and the joy of his fellow Sailors as WWII was officially over. He also spoke of the pleasure he feels of seeing his "home" being taken care of.
"I am very grateful to the people here who take care of the ship," said Albert. "They work hard and it is the greatest thing that they did since the ship has been here -bringing it back like I used to know it when it was put in commission in 1944."
Michael Carr, the president of the Battleship Missouri Memorial, spoke about the importance of remembering the past, learning from the mistakes and striving to a better future. He thanked veterans as well as current and future service members for their dedication to the nation and its safekeeping.
"We are here today to honor the anniversary of the peace," said Carr. "Our eternal thanks go out to the Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen and merchant marines who serve America with distinction and honor, and made this day possible."
He also welcomed guests to the unveiling of the newly renovated wardroom, which was restored to its 1991 inspection-ready condition - the last year the battleship was in service.
The ceremony concluded with a Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam rifle detail, providing a gun salute and the Marine Forces Pacific Band playing echo taps.